DUO BRUBECK, featuring the winner of Guitar Player Magazine’s Ultimate Guitarist Competition-guitar virtuoso Tom Lippincott, and the “Bobby McFerrin of The Bass Trombone”-David Brubeck will premiere totally new arrangments for jazz duo alongside some of their favorites.
Brubeck will join his unique brand of beat-boxing trombone playing to the talents of guitarist and shredding riffmaster Mitch Farber as well, again featuring a mix of brand new and old.
Special guest appearances by madnolin master Bill Wallach and exciting young singer songwriter Ivhanna Gil will round out DUO BRUBECK’s triumphant return to the premiere celebration of the Kendall Campus-Arts and Letters Day.
Schedlued to begin at 7:00 pm, Tuesday evening, in the open air surrounded by a canopy of towering oaks, the songs of birds, and fragrant orchids, bring a blanket and chill, as the evening progresses from calm to invigorating. Seating is limited, admission is free.
The campus is located at 11011 Sw 104th Street Miami, FL. Please contact 305-237-2282 for more information.
The first thing you notice about Craig Gosnell is his versatility-from tenor trombone to bass, and jazz vocals to boot. Next, comes his ubiquity. In what seems to be just a short time, he and his trombone are everywhere, from big bands (Gordon Goodwin, Michael Buble, Jaco’s Word of Mouth, Mike Barone, Arturo Sandoval, Bob FLorence, Natalie Cole…), to studio work, albums to soundtracks and everything in-between, Craig has hit the sweet spot in Los Angeles-a city perhaps unique in its ability to offer equally divergent and high level performance outlets. Then there are the credentials, that remind you that it didn’t happen overnight. Gosnell is both a Doctor and an Honor Student, courtesy of the University of Miami, and the road to UM went through Greeley and UNC. Since Craig got to LA the bands have gotten a little phatter and the sounds a little sweeter. “Seven Positions” tm finally catches up with the big band bass bone master Craig Gosnell.
What do you look for in an instrument?
I look for balance in many places.
Does it have smooth slide action right out of the gate?
Is it too front heavy? Or back heavy?
I want the tone to be malleable, where I can control (to some degree), how dark or bright I want to sound, given the musical situation.
The valves need to be quick, smooth, and blow as close to the open horn as possible but not SO open that there isn’t something to lean on. (I prefer large rotors over Axial-flow, for instance.)
It’s also good when the horn slots well and has clear articulation.
How do you conceive of or describe the ideal tone quality for:
When it comes to tone quality, I try to bear in mind what Buddy Baker had taught me about big, sustained beautiful sound at all times. I think of getting my sound out to the back of the hall, so I always try to play to the side of my music stand and not underneath it, which can just direct my sound into the floor. I don’t really alter my tone all that much for differing styles (from what I can tell).
Of course, dynamics, articulation and rhythms could vary depending on the style, and that is up to the composer/arranger. I’m always listening to what is musically going on around me and must constantly decide what my musical role is in a given situation. Is there a tuba in the section, or am I providing the foundation alone? Is this a time to be blending and softly fitting into a texture, should I bring out a melody line to give it some prominence? Or should I be “peeling paint” in a very raucous section?
If I can’t hear whoever the lead player is, then I know I’m playing to loud. In big band, the bass trombone is the foundation of at least the trombone section, and then the entire brass when the trumpets are playing.
I think about balancing and supporting whoever the lead player is. Of course, high lead trumpet notes will always cut through better than any loud volume a bass trombone might provide, so it’s just a matter of “riding the wave” and picking your moments in musically exposed situations.
I also enjoy playing soft – so that the audience needs to intensely lean in to really hear what kind of blend and texture is being played. Variety is a beautiful thing!
In the studio, as anywhere, paying attention to dynamics on the page is very important. The dynamic threshold is still going to be dictated by whoever is playing lead. If I’m playing next to tuba, I like to “fit in” to the sound that the tuba is producing, unless the part says double or triple forte…then there is room for some sizzle or “brassiness” in the sound.
Microphone placement is also important, as you don’t want the microphone too close to the bell as it will alter the tone color being recorded dramatically, and there isn’t as much room for dynamic contrast. 3rd Position
What is your secret to a beautiful legato?
A beautiful legato is a number of different factors coinciding at the same time.
My air is sustaining the sound, and the tongue is applying a light “D” articulation. Depending on what register of the instrument I’m in, there can be a certain syllable associated with that. The low register, a “Dah,” middle register, a “Duh,” and high register a “dih” (as in the word “it”).
I then have to combine all of this with slide movement, and tongue-slide coordination have to be perfectly together.
Thankfully, with the bass trombone, in certain situations – valves can be used, depressing or releasing which can provide enough of a smooth separation between certain notes (without the tongue getting involved).
All trombones can make use of natural slurs, where the tongue is not required, and the slide is moving from an outer position to an inner one on a descending line.
I guess that hopefully the “beautiful” aspect of the legato would be just the smooth execution of all these different factors. I think in order to realize just where each factor comes into play, a good deal of scale practice is required, being sure to also use alternate positions as well as regular ones so that it eventually becomes second nature to the player.
What helps you achieve musical expression?
There are a number of things that help with musical expression. I would definitely refer back to the second question and what I’ve previously stated about dynamics. There was a great illustration on the back of Buddy Baker’s studio door that depicted a person’s face, but where there were supposed to be eyes, there were ears instead. Listening to the ensemble around you is such a key factor in determining how you want to play a musical line – dynamically, note duration, and style. I like to listen to various styles of music when time permits, and I often feel like I don’t listen to other music as much as I should!
In some ways, this can train your brain to nitpick and analyze various aspects of a piece without also having to add your voice at the same time. When it does become time, in an ensemble, you have a better understanding and framework of the music that you’re performing.
I also like to know what the composer is intending – if there’s any kind of story or action taking place that the music is supposed to reflect. If I’m playing on a movie score, it’s very helpful to be able to see the scene and know what’s happening – should the music be reflecting calm tranquility? Tension and terror? Whimsical comedy? All of these aspects can come together to influence how I think I should express music.
Name two types of inspiration
Musical inspiration can happen when I least expect it. Someone could just provide a link to a particular performer whom I hadn’t heard before, or when I get to hear a master at their craft play a passage that is just perfect, it can reinvigorate my drive to continually improve at my own performance and musical understanding.
I think it was about a year ago that I had first heard of Jacob Collier. If your readers haven’t heard this young man’s arrangements on Youtube, I would certainly recommend they check them out. As of this writing, his version of Fascinating Rhythm is the most recent video to appear, and he is a multi-instrumentalist who also sings (multi-track) six-part (and more!) harmonies.
Also, a band that has had my attention for quite awhile, “Dirty Loops” has just released their first album, called “Loopified.” They are a trio from Sweden (keyboard/vocals, electric bass and drums) who all have jazz training (very talented), but came to prominence also through Youtube with their cover arrangements of current-era pop tunes. Those arrangements use more complex harmonies and grooves than the originals, and the vocalist, Jonah Nilsson sounds like he has been heavily influenced by Stevie Wonder. Very cool!
Non-musical inspiration can also happen in many forms. When I see someone who has a passion for what they do: a visual artist, a history teacher, someone who makes their own physical fitness a major priority in his/her life, any number of those things can be inspiring. It can be an effective way to ignite an energy for my own self-improvement.
I recently had the wonderful opportunity to perform with an ensemble in the South of France for a number of days, and found the culture (including their appreciation for instrumental music), visual art and food to be quite inspiring!
What drew you to Los Angeles to begin your career? What is special about the scene there?
Ever since my junior year at the University of Northern Colorado (after reading an article about a prominent trombonist in L.A.), I thought about the possibility of making the move there to try my hand at doing the freelance musician thing. The thought of doing not only live work, but playing for things like movies, TV shows, recording on artists’ albums, and making a decent middle-class living really appealed to me.
I finally made the move in 2003 after finishing my doctorate at the University of Miami, and took part in the 4-week Henry Mancini Institute, which was a great bridge between the college atmosphere and the real world. Students were able to study with faculty that were doing the work that many of them were hoping to do in the future.
Over a number of years, I’m very thankful that momentum increased to the point where I could make a living out here, and continue to do so.
The scene is special because there is so much variety of music going on in so many places across town, and the level of musicianship is so high across the community.
Do you have an time for side projects as a leader or soloist? How do you envision the solo jazz bass trombone?
As far as being a leader or soloist, I haven’t really done all that much outside of college recitals. Being a sideman and keeping up doubles takes a good deal of time.
That said, I always enjoy when a composer/arranger sees fit to feature the bass trombone. It’s nice to defy the norm a certain amount.
I always welcome the chance to do so! I think there is a lot of potential when it comes to solo jazz bass trombone, not just melodically, but when I hear amazing players like Bill Reichenbach or Dave Taylor improvise, it’s such a great reminder of what the instrument is capable of.
Bill’s facility while improvising on the bass trombone, especially in the low register is fantastic!
c. 2015 David William Brubeck All Rights reserved. davidbrubeck.com
Images courtesy of greenhoe.com and laststudiomusicians.info
Bright, energetic, poised, creative and virtuosic, Sergent Lauren Curran is the Social Media Manager for the US Army Field Band. The Field Band’s tweet defending the honor of marching band members worldwide went viral just as as national sports entertainment shock-jock Jim Rome had conceded an apology over his inappropriate remarks. Noted now for both her courage and her poise as well as her virtuosity on the euphonium, Sgt. Curran visits “The Fourth Valve” tm and we salute her!
1. Please discuss your quintet performances. Which part/instruments do you play? What was your journey to chamber music like? (Particularly as a euphonium player).I am a member of The United States Army Field Band Brass Quintet-although that’s sort of a misnomer, as there are actually 7 members. The core of the group is a standard brass quintet, (2 tpts, horn, tbn, tuba). I join in on euphonium throughout our program, and we also have a drummer for many tunes.
I’m primarily featured as a soloist, and we are developing a library of original arrangements for sextet. Although I don’t play on every piece, I contribute to the group in other ways, such as photography, narration, and auxiliary percussion—I have been known to play a bit of tambourine.
As a euphonium player, you have to be flexible and open-minded when it comes to chamber music opportunities.
In college, I was thrown into a few brass quintets because they were “incomplete,” usually missing a trombone or tuba player. Replacing one of those instruments with euphonium drastically changes the sound of the group. It forces everyone to open their ears a bit and try to find music to fit with that conical tenor voice. If the euphonium replaces the tuba it’s a different problem than when it replaces the trombone. Some music works and some definitely doesn’t. For me, it was a great chance to adapt, learn some standard brass quintet rep, and convince disgruntled trumpet players that quintet could still sound cool with euph.
At the Army Field Band, I was initially attached to the Brass Quintet as a soloist, and was gradually incorporated into more of the program. It’s been one of the most rewarding parts of my job. There are so many ways chamber music develops your playing…and your interpersonal skills!
2. Which non-musical skills have served you the best in your career? How did you become such a facile and charming writer?
For me, being comfortable with public speaking has been a huge asset.
The media is everywhere, and sometimes I’m asked to give interviews or speak in front of a crowd on short notice. The ability to address an audience, put them at ease, communicate ideas, get them to laugh at my jokes, stay on message…it’s not easy! I don’t claim to be an expert, but I’m naturally talkative and have done a fair amount of public speaking.
Thank you for the kind words about my writing! I’ve been writing most of my life, from absolutely terrible teenage poetry to Army Field Band publications, to my personal blog. I like to read, and that helps inform my writing, of course. I read a lot of blogs and non-fiction at this point in my life, but my true love will always be fantasy and science fiction. Writing is just like playing an instrument though—the more you do it, the better you get. I need to do more of it!
3. How has your awareness of the importance of social media changed over the past 10 years? What do you see on the horizon in the next 10 years?
I love Social Media, I came of age during the advent of instant messenger, Myspace and Facebook. I live thousands of miles away from my hometown and family, so Social Media is a major way I stay connected to loved ones.
For musicians, it’s pretty much a requirement to represent yourself online and on Social Media. That’s were people are discovering new music and figuring out what they love. I don’t think anything can ever replace a live show, but Social Media can be a glimpse backstage, a dialogue between audience and performer, a communication tool.
As far as where we’re headed, it’s hard to guess. I think a lot about whether it’s worth it to record albums anymore. That’s always been a big goal of mine, but when you weigh the enormous cost versus the reality that people are using YouTube to listen to music…I just don’t know if it makes sense for a musician like me.
On the other hand, there can be a lot of value in creating an album. People still ask for CD’s and it’s a professional investment. There are huge benefits to working out a project that asks you to organize musical ideas and record them at a high level. Ideally an album is more than just a collection of random tunes, but a statement, or a story. It’s just not likely to be a good fiscal investment. People have to know about your CD and be willing to buy it, even though they probably don’t put discs in their car any more. I just bought a new computer, and it didn’t even come with a CD drive.
On the other hand, let’s say you record YouTube videos. That’s definitely not making you any money, at least not directly. And artists should be paid for their work. So what’s the answer? These are the things I think about. I think the evolution of how we consume music makes live performances more important than ever. Music has always been an escape, a transformative thing. The more we listen to music by staring at a screen with earbuds shoved down our canals, the more we will also need to get out and go hear a show. We crave that live experience on a human level. We just have to remember to put down our phones and enjoy it…
4. How do you conceive of and execute vibrato? Is it different as an ensemble player as opposed to as a soloist? When do you play without vibrato?
I guess I think of vibrato as an expressive voice within my sound. I usually try to emulate a vocalist in the way I use it. And in the same way a vocalist wouldn’t use vibrato for certain group or solo settings, I take it completely out of the sound when needed. One of the biggest adjustments I had to make when I joined the Army Field Band was my use of vibrato. The performance practice of that ensemble was for the euphonium section to use little to no vibrato in the band. Especially when playing unison with horns or trombones, they prefer a completely straight tone. Sometimes euphonium players rely too much on vibrato to color the sound and it becomes a crutch. It’s important to have a warm, rich sound that still has direction and nuance, even without vibrato. It takes practice to take it out effectively!
5. Of the six major vocal registers, (soprano, mezzo, alto, tenor, baritone, and bass), which 2 or 3 are the euphoniums greatest strength? Why?
If you’re asking which music we can most effectively steal, I would have to say the tenor range is so perfect for euphonium. A great tenor sound is the perfect balance between lightness and weight, darkness and agility. I think those are strengths of the euphonium. Sort of a male register but with a feminine range? Tenor music tends to sit on those “money” notes above the staff too. I do like to play mezzo and soprano arias though, because if I’m trying to get into a character, I just relate to the female roles more. The music of Nessun Dorma may be universal and lovely, but I don’t see myself as a traveling prince. Maybe a travelling princess…
6. What is the best euphonium playing you have ever done?
I had a recital tour where I played the same program six times.
Things really solidified after the 2nd or 3rd go, and I felt extremely confident and secure by the last performance. I’d love to do more of that. It’s just difficult to simulate a performance 100% in the practice room. One of the benefits of playing a solo with the Army Field Band is that you typically get to play the solo 6-7 times on a tour. It gives you the chance to really settle in with the music; nerves become less of a factor.
I’d say any opportunity to get multiple performances of a piece would certainly be some of the most enjoyable playing I’ve done, if not the best. When I have a one-off performance coming up, I often try to find an opportunity to perform the program ahead of time. That’s really the ultimate way to put the final touches on preparation for a big gig.
7. What is the best euphonium playing you have ever heard?
I recently heard Japanese euphoniumist Mitsuru Saito perform the David Gillingham Euphonium Concerto at the Army Tuba Euphonium Workshop, and I think that’s some of the best playing I’ve heard to date. His sound, musicality, accuracy…it was all there. It is a joy to experience that level of playing.
The euphonium playing that moved me the most was listening to Dr. Bowman play the Gustav Cords Romanze after dedicating the performance to his wife. He then proceeded to play so musically, so beautifully, so achingly…if your eyes didn’t spring a leak at some point during that performance, go get your pulse checked.
8. How did you develop your communication skills, and what was it like to be at the middle of the Rome marching band comment controversy?
I’m a lot like my Dad, who never met a stranger, and I love talking to people. I was always in trouble in school over it. I’ve had several East coast people call me the fastest talking Texan they’ve ever heard. Seriously, ask my husband about the talking. So, I guess I’ve just had lots of practice communicating.
When the Jim Rome controversy happened and the Army Field Band Twitter response went viral, Fox News requested an interview. Our Public Affairs Officer prepped me for the interview and helped me go over how to best respond to possible questions. I had to keep in mind that I was not only representing myself and the Army Field Band, but also the entire U.S. Army. (You don’t want to piss off those guys!)
I was on a plane 20 minutes after we got called to do the interview. I spent the flight writing out notes, guessing possible questions, typing out responses, reading over things, editing, and memorizing the message I wanted to convey. When we landed, I had to immediately call in to Fox and Friends and speak to a producer for a pre-interview. That gave me a good sense of what might be asked, and the tone of the piece.
The next morning, I was at the Fox News DC building, going live before I knew what was happening. I was alone in a small studio room, looking at a blank screen. I couldn’t see who was interviewing me or what I looked like, and my only connection to the outside world was through an earpiece. It’s hard to act naturally when you can’t see the person asking you questions. Thankfully the preparation and focus on my flight gave me the confidence I needed to not put my foot in my mouth.
The aftermath of the whole brouhaha has been very positive. So many people from across the country got in touch to say “thank you” for standing up for marching bands, for speaking out on a national platform on behalf of these hard working kids.
Just the other night, I had a band director came up to me after an Army Field Band concert to talk about it. I think the whole incident shows how much positive power the music community has when we come together on an issue.
9. What do you look for in a euphonium?
I’m not a big equipment junkie, I’ve been playing on the same horn (Willson 2900) for 15 years. Does it play in tune, can I get the sound I want, does it project from within the band? Is it comfortable to hold? Some horns are more ergonomic for smaller hands than others.
10. How has becoming a parent informed your humanity and musicality?
Becoming a parent is pretty much all-consuming in the beginning. Giving birth is this incredibly physical event, and for me it was both magical and traumatic. I did not play my instrument for almost six weeks as I struggled to master breastfeeding, allowed my body to heal, and dedicated my energy toward sustaining this new life that was 100% dependent on me for survival.
After six weeks, the fog began to lift and I was able to think about the euphonium again. That was convenient, because I had to return to work at six weeks as well. Finding a balance between my music career and my family has been a process of growth. I’ve had to make choices, identify priorities, and become more efficient.
Before I was a mother, I would probably say I was most proud of the fact that I serve my country through music, that I am able to make people’s lives better with my instrument. Now, that purpose exists alongside this beautiful calling of motherhood.
The biggest way that has informed my musicality is that being a mother has given me a new level of confidence, particularly of what my body is capable. My body made and sustained a human life. My son literally grew from a single cell to a 20 lb, 6-month-old hunk of human from nothing but the nourishment of my body. My body is powerful! That confidence of self can’t help but translate to performance.
c. 2015 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved. davidbrubeck.com
1. Traveling (a great deal!), with the tuba presents a challenge. When you fly, does the tuba go underneath? (If so, do you have a special case?). How many tubas do you most often take with you when you fly? Any funny stories on land or sea?
When traveling, I only bring my trusted Miraphone Starlight Eb tuba. I have toured with small planes, sea planes, large planes, helicopters, all kinds of cars, busses, various bikes, tractors, trucks, a rowing boat, fishing boats, really fast boats, huge boats and of course ferry. Pretty much everything but a submarine.
There have been numerous funny, and many not so funny stories, connected to flying.
One of the most memorable was going with Lufthansa from Frankfurt to Linz in Austria. I had packed the tuba inside a gig bag and then put the bag in a carbon fibre case.
Just before take off I look out the window and notice my tuba standing on the concrete next to the plane. Worrisome (!), so I notify the flight attendant. Oh, don’t worry, it is probably not your tuba, she replies. Yes it is! I have a gig this evening and NEED it to be on the plane, I told her. I left my chair and followed her up to the area outside the cockpit. It turned out the luggage compartment of the mid sized plane was full so my tuba would not fit. After arguing for ten minutes with several crew members, the cockpit door opens and the captain puts his head out. What’s going on he asks. While still on the ground I explain the desperate situation to him. He must have been a music lover because he makes a few phone calls, probably to check the regulations, then suggests to bring the tuba inside the cockpit!
The crew opens the plane door, I am handed one of those orange wests and walk on to the runway to “identify” my tuba.
In front of a full plane of impatient passengers, looking like question marks, I bring the entire case inside the cabin and try to stuff it through the cockpit door. The door is too narrow. Damn, what now? Wait, I can leave the case behind and put the tuba with gig bag inside the cockpit. Said and done. Thanks Lufthansa pilots for saving the concert!
2. Tell us about growing up in Norway: How close was your nearest neighbor/how big was your town as a child? What kind of things happened when it was too cold to go out? Is there a part of you that was forged away from access to the Internet and people that is vital to what you do now?
I grew up on the country side with the nearest neighbor just 20-30 meters away. I guess they learned to live with the tuba sound.
You can’t really call it a town. More a large area with agriculture. Amongst those 3000 people living there, we had four wind orchestras, three choirs and several smaller music groups.
It was never too cold to go out. Like most of the country, this part of Norway is close to the ocean, which means less extreme temperatures.
I have often wondered if the absence of Internet made a difference. For sure, we had other things that could steal our time! That being said, I think that today’s youth might need even more discipline to avoid having all their time being consumed by Internet use. Loosing focus is another challenge.
My wife is very important for what I am doing right now. Both for general inspiration as well as a musical discussion partner.
3. If a genie appeared and said that you and your tuba could take the place of ANY and musician and ANY instrument for a combination of any three concerts or albums, which three situations would you choose?
I can’t really think of any.
4. Arnold Jacobs extolled and inspired us all to become “story tellers of sound”, but in your case you seem (at times), utterly absorbed by the emotional content. Do you allow yourself to become deeply involved in the emotion of a piece, and what does it demand from your attention?
Personally I have always found Jacob’s statement confusing. Music to me is not about telling a story. Reading literature is, or perhaps singing a text. Instrumental music is much more abstract and about a series of emotional characters. Sometimes happy and sometimes sad, and everything in between.
In fact, I find it very liberating NOT having to construct a story. And when listening, to be free to construct my own personal dream castle inside my head. Totally different from the person next to me.
The result is that the spirit of music is freer, more individual on both the sending and receiving end.
It does not mean however, that you don’t need knowledge to perform music.
What you need is a deep knowledge about how to create musical and emotional characters, or archetypes, and how they work together.
A musical archetype is a way of phrasing that is immediately recognized by the audience as a particular character. For example, what technical tricks must we pull off to make the music sound romantic? Or espressivo, or joyful, or wild?
When playing, we should not let a bar go by without knowing what character we want in this particular bar, or even on this particular note.
Constructing long series of characters in combination with an immense focus on the present, makes for a good performance.
When audiences see me on stage as “utterly absorbed by the emotional content”, what they really see is me being focused on the present moment, trying to maximize the musical character that I am working just now.
Here is a transcribed quote from an actor:
One of the most important things in music is honesty. When you have learned how to fake that, you have come a long way!
This statement sound like a cynical joke, and most of the time it is.
However, there is much truth to it.
Music without emotional involvement is worthless.
On the other hand, musicians can’t allow themselves to get carried way beyond control.
What we should try though is to find the tipping point. The point where everything collapses because of too much involvement. A good performance balances constantly on this knife edge between rock hard control and emotional breakdown.
5. How do you choose literature? Are there some things you feel audiences are not yet ready to hear on the tuba?
I choose music that allows me to explore interesting musical characters. I don’t like pieces that “plays themselves” and where the composer has reduced the musician to a note machine. “Just play what’s on the paper and all will be fine.”
Not ready to hear on the tuba? Not really, except boring playing.
6. On the tuba that you most frequently use, which ranges are the most effective and for what purposes?
Do you sometimes hear dynamics and ranges as merely different colors?
I tend to play mostly in the mid and high register. Dynamics and ranges are merely tools for creating musical characters.
7. How did you learn to phrase so beautifully? Do you conceive of, plan or mark phrasing in a special way?
I experiment a lot and I analyze great performances by others. I ask myself, what is it that makes this phrasing sound so organic and beautiful. I look at the use of unwritten tools such as timing (agogic), dynamics, accents, tenures, vibrato etc. Then I try to imitate. I record myself a lot so that I can hear where I might improve.
What I have found is that what sounds natural is often far from it. In other words, we have to do some pretty unnatural things in order to have the music sound natural!
The good thing is that we humans are flexible and with some practice we can make almost anything feel natural.
8. Although nurtured by and (an integral part of) the brass/wind community, your opportunities have taken you into broader circles of musicians, and even beyond the circle of musicians to artists and cultural figures. What have you discovered as a man of artistic temperament in your travels and encounters?
Rimsky Korsakov describes the different orchestral instruments in his book about orchestration.
He describes the brass as being great for signals and dramatic highlights. When he wants richness of colors and beautiful melodies he turns to the strings, sometimes the woodwinds.
These definitions are very common amongst 90% of the composers that are played by modern orchestras.
Modern brass teaching is mostly about making the student ready for an orchestra gig and less about creating soloists. Therefore, it would be strange if the teacher did not focus on this demand for “signals and dramatic highlights” in the orchestra, and less on exploring colors and melodic playing.
We all try to fulfill the expectations put on us.
That is why a soloist must also look to other instrument groups for inspiration.
I have had the fortune of meeting some fantastic musicians over the years, and learned from all of them. The latest encounter was the fantastic Indian violinist Subramaniam with whom I now have played many concerts. Look him up! He is right now writing a double concerto for violin, tuba and orchestra.
9. Other than tuba, which three instruments/musicians fascinate you, and why?
I am fascinated by the violin, the voice and the piano. Partly because of the enormous repertoire between them. Partly because composers and performers through hundreds of years have explored almost all existing characters they can produce. I represents a veritable ocean of knowledge and experience.
At the same time, I am glad that I play the tuba. Compared to the violin the tuba is still in the kindergarten when it comes to exploring and using articulations, colors and musical characters.
c. 2015 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved. davidbrubeck.com
Images courtesy of Mirafone and worldmusiccentral.org
If you are holding a euphonium and a woman grabs you in a passionate embrace, it just might be the tango. If your name is Koichiro Suzuzki, then it most definitely is! Nurtured by the River City Brass Band, Suzuki has created a niche for euphonium that bears repeating. The “Fourth Valve” tm is delighted to host euphonium tango master Suzuki, & we bet we know what you young euphonium players will be doing this summer!
1. When did you fall in love with the Tango?
I’ve been in love with Argentine tango since 2004. The first time I experienced tango was in a class provided by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee-(where I went for my undergraduate study in music). From that day, I knew that it was something I’d love to do for the rest of my life.
2. How does playing tangos inform your dancing, and how does dancing tangos inform your playing?
Dancing tango is improvisational so it helps me to understand more about music structures and rhythm.
Some tango songs are not for dancing, and it helps to know which songs are better for dancing.
3. What is special and unique about Buenos Aires?
Tango! (Of course….). But Buenos Aires is like Paris in South America. It has a European style of architecture and an extremely rich cultural life.
Cuidado Thrills on Libertango
4. How does the euphonium fit in with the tango, and who does the arrangements for your group Cuidado?
It is always challenging but a Euphonium’s mellow and smooth sound fits well in Tango. Here the euphonium can be used as a melodic instrument as well as the rhythmic bass line.
Because of the unique orchestration, our band does all of the arrangements.
> 5. How did Cuidado come about?
When I was in graduate school, I wanted to create something different as an ensemble. I wanted to combine both of my passions into one idea.
6. How would you contrast the differences in your approach to commercial music as opposed to classical. Any different concepts, techniques or equipment?
I usually exaggerate accents and staccato when I play tango songs, but other than than that, I play same instrument and mouthpiece when I play with band.
7. What are your musical inspirations?
Alan Bear Non-musical?
Eternal Tango, by Cuidado
8. Could you discuss the rhythmic and style aspects of the Tango?
Traditionally, Tango songs have accents on beats one and four. Rhythmic changes to two syncopating accented dotted quarter notes followed by a quarter note is popular as well.
9. What advice would you give to young euphonium players?
Practice hard and have fun playing euphonium!
c. 2015 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved. davidbrubeck.com
Images courtesy of the Koichiro Suzuki and The Pittsburgh Post Gazette
1. The Atlantic Brass Quintet is a remarkable group comprised of five multi-faceted and intriguing individuals. How did you manage to come together, and more importantly, stay together?
SETH: We stay together based on respect and mutually shared goals. Our tuba player, John, says “Some guys go on hunting trips to have fun. We go on ABQ tours!” There’s just so much trust in the group that both rehearsals and performances are just incredibly fun!
MANNING: I would agree with Seth and say that the critical ingredient to a successful group is a mutual respect for your colleagues. We first formed in 1985 at Boston University under the tutelage of the Empire Brass Quintet. They had a thriving brass chamber music program and each semester, all brass students were formed into chamber music groups. The Empire Brass hand-picked the members of the Atlantic Brass Quintet and got us our first gigs. The Atlantic BQ have had several personnel changes over the years – which is inevitable – but have always managed to maintain a high standard for our performances and recordings. I think what keeps us together is that we find that the musical experience is extremely rewarding and inspiring. This September will mark our 30th anniversary, and we hope to be going for another 30 years!
2. There seems to be a significant reservoir of freelance experience in the group which recalls The New York Bras Quintet. Have you come across any commonalities with that group? Which chamber music groups have influenced you?
SETH: Some of our early sound concepts came from Empire. In many ways, we were their apprentices.
We have tremendous respect for a lot of the other chamber music groups out there. I think we’ve had especially close ties to American and Meridian, because we’ve shared players over the years.
MANNING: I suppose most chamber music groups are comprised of musicians who freelance, and I think that the collective experience of our current members represents a rich and varied set of influences. From symphonic to jazz, Klezmer to hip hop, we bring to the table a well-balanced and broad collection of musical experience. I think this diversity strengthens our ensemble and make our musical approach more accessible to our audiences.
We have been inspired by the Empire Brass, of course, and we have great admiration for chamber groups like the American Brass Quintet, Meridian Brass Ensemble and Kronos Quartet.
3. This Atlantic BQ has experienced tremendous success in competition. What is that headspace like, and what did you get from your coaches?
MANNING: During the early years of the Atlantic Brass Quintet, the group made it a goal to compete and win in all the chamber music competitions they could – and they did. It was during a short period of three years (while I was in the Air Force), that most of this happened. Between 1986 and 1989, Atlantic BQ won first prizes at the Coleman Chamber Music Competition, the Carmel Chamber Music Society Competition, the Shoreline Alliance Chamber Music Competition, the Summit Brass First International Brass Ensemble Competition, and the Rafael Mendez International Brass Quintet Competition. During that time, the personnel was Joe Foley, Jeff Luke, Bob Rasumussen, John Faieta and Julian Dixon. I rejoined the group in 1989 after all the hard work was done! In 1992 we went to France and won the “Premiere Prix” at the International Brass Competition of Narbonne, France.
In preparation for these competitions, we received a lot of help from our coaches, including Charlie Lewis and Sam Pilafian (Empire Brass) and Roger Voisin (former principal trumpet of the Boston Symphony and head of the Brass Department at Boston University). They were all incredible mentors and teachers and the taught us invaluable lessons about balance, blend, intonation and expression and even addressed stage presence and business advice. As far as “headspace” – I don’t know. We were proud of our achievments and listed them in our publicity, but frankly we just kept going, trying to make the best music we could by continuing to challenge ourselves and engage our audience.
4. Literature aside, is the traditional brass quintet instrumentation the most effective you can imagine? Why or why not?
SORG: I believe the traditional instrumentation is the most effective because it’s closely related to SATB, but the addition of the tuba or bass trombone create a blend and frequency superior to a standard brass quartet. Also practically speaking, a quintet’s general business fee is more marketable for standard gigs, than a larger ensemble.
MANNING: If you are referring to tuba vs. bass trombone, I suppose I might be a bit biased toward the tuba – and I will admit I generally prefer that color and depth at the bottom of the group. That said, people like John Rojak prove that a great bass trombone sound is just as pleasing. There are some works in the repertoire that were written for the bass trombone, and I would much prefer to keep those works that way. We’ve also been impressed with how well many of our bass trombone students in the Atlantic Brass Quintet Seminar handle the “tuba” parts with agility and depth of tone.
The challenge that most homogenous groups face is to prevent the audience form getting color bored – that is, always hearing the same instrumentation throughout the duration of a recital. Our trumpet players mix it up a lot, switching from piccolo trumpets, B-flat and C, and Flugelhorns. Mutes, how the group sits or stands, extended techniques and clever arranging can also help.
5. How do you guys handle the division of labor?
SORG: Five ways!
SETH: Everyone has duties. I’m the financial guy. I pay the bills and try to keep the books balanced. I think it just highlights how much the modern musician needs to have a variety of skills.
MANNING: Everyone contributes in one way or another. One person is the liaison between our manager and the group, another deals with travel, another finances, another CD sales. Some members of the group contribute through arranging and composing. Sometimes there are small one-time tasks, and other times there are large projects that we all chip in to get done. To keep a group running, there is so much to do beyond practicing your part and showing up to rehearsal.
6. Hip Hop and Chamber Music! How and why do they meet? What doors has it opened?
I grew up very sheltered, musically speaking. I missed out on all classic rock, rock n roll, 80’s cheese, heavy metal, grunge, etc. But I did have a great classical, jazz and hip-hop influence in my childhood. Growing up in a urban neighborhood with a strong NYC presence, was all about rap and hip-hop. My high school trumpet section would take turns free-styling on our band trips and car rides, it was and is a part of who we are.
I was very inspired by this to experiment with creating hip-hop beats, lyrics and songs. Writing over 40 hip-hop songs, some with mixed meter beats, taught me how to compose. This hip-hop feel of my compositions can easily be heard in my two brass quintets, Mental Disorders and Voices In Da Fan. As far as doors opening…the brass community has embraced my compositions and students from various universities are even performing them. I have received a lot of love from not only brass players, but audiences as well. However, the hip-hop community has not yet embraced the art form of ‘mixed-meter hip hop’ and has slammed some of those open doors right in my face!
7. Your career evidences the most “dyed in the wool” brass quintet devotee. What do you see the brass quintet genre exploring in the next 40 years?
There is so much I could say about this…It would be my hope, that the brass quintet continually breaks musical ground to become a full platform for individual and group expression, outside of the general business idiom. The brass quintet can be, should be and is more than a gig band for graduations, weddings and ceremonial events. I believe more brass players will be composing, performing and recording their own pieces, hopefully with a personal emotional message to connect and share with their audiences.
I believe more multi-media works will be explored as well as brass quintet and electronics. It’s always been a dream of mine to have a brass quintet hooked up to a real time midi sequencer, with endless options for sound, not just a reverb/echo effect. I believe that we’ll see more collaborations with singers and other instrumentalists/ensembles which will expand the way we use/view the ensemble.
It seems unfortunate, at times, that the popularity of the brass quintet coincided with the that of contemporary music. As a result, many of the pieces actually written for brass quintet were not accessible to audiences’ ears-(and still aren’t!) This seriously hurt our future of being hired to play the music written for us by famous living composers. We need music that general audiences actually WANT to hear. This means the brass quintet needs great new music to play, that connects to audiences ears musically with a story to touch them emotionally. Therefore, the future of the brass quintet lies in the five individuals abilities to be great arrangers, composers and innovators, making sure that their end product, is something that has never been explored before.
8. Hybrid Jazz Chamber Music. What expressive and audience experiences have you noted?
My goal has always been to encourage classical audiences to realize their love for jazz, and jazz audiences to realize their love for the great classical composers. I believe that the commonalities between the two genres go far deeper than many presenters realize. Audience reactions to my jazz group’s performances corroborate this idea. Presenting, for example, a jazz/improvised version of a Messiaen song cycle, we repeatedly hear things from classical audiences like “I never thought I’d enjoy a jazz performance so much”, and from jazz audiences “I’ve never heard Messiaen’s music before, but now I’m going to go listen to everything he ever wrote”.
The beauty of the cross pollination goes deeper than just audience-building. Musically, jazz players bring the work of classical composers to life in a uniquely vibrant way. Of course, on the surface, there is the improvisational element that extrapolates upon the original composer’s material. But in a more general sense, jazz musicians are instinctually committed to freedom and rule-breaking in a way that allows performances to breathe very openly. In fact, the great classical soloists have this too. Yo-Yo Ma is a great example. I also just heard Anne-Sophie Mutter perform a magical Sibelius Violin Concerto at Carnegie Hall. Her interpretation was so free that it would be almost impossible to transcribe. The music was completely internalized, and was performed as if it was flowing directly from her soul. John Coltrane would have totally dug that performance, and I believe Anne-Sophie Mutter’s mind would have been blown at a Coltrane performance. There’s an idea for a book …
I see our globalized society as increasingly cross-pollinated, and I love presenting music that represents this. That’s one of the reasons why the Atlantic Brass Quintet feels like such a great fit for me. From traditional chamber music roots, the group has developed a voice that truly represents the diverse interests of its members. Jazz is a big part of this (look out for our upcoming Mehldau transcriptions), as is Balkan music, hip-hop, and music from Latin America.
9. You were trained by members of the Chicago Symphony. How do you view their concepts and legacy differently as an accomplished professional than you did and a student?
My primary teachers from Chicago were Richard Oldberg, Dale Clevenger and more recently Gail Williams.
My sound concept is still very strongly rooted in the Chicago sound I learned way back in the early 80s. I have to say that every day, either in my teaching or my own playing, I refer back to lessons or skills that I learned in Chicago. Much of the teaching had a lot to do with Arnold Jacobs work. Jacobs approach and style still remains so effective and positive, that I really feel it must be included in the education of young players.
As to the legacy, that’s just impossible to overstate. So many great professional players have come out of Chicago, with teaching backgrounds from those CSO players. Many of my colleagues, both players and college level teachers have that Chicago background. I just feel so lucky to have shared in the tradition and history.
How would you contrast the musical and personal skills required for a symphony job and freelancing?
I don’t think, as a musician, you can overstate the importance of being easy to work with. I think that’s important wherever you work. I feel like my job is to help create the optimal environment in which everyone can play their best. That means getting along and keeping everything as positive as possible. Musical skills for freelancing and symphony aren’t really that different. I think the important thing is to show up really prepared for rehearsals as well as the show. When you sit down to play, especially with others, you want to be able to focus on the music and making music, not notes or other technical things. I guess as a freelancer more sight-reading, and just the variety of situations in which you find yourself, plus travel can be stressful. It’s hard to beat the great symphonic rep. Pretty much any performing as a player is just great.
10. Top flight jazz and classical careers such as yours are rare. Were you inspired by Wynton? Were you disappointed when he put aside classical music?
I wouldn’t say that they are necessarily rare. Especially these days with the talent pool so high and the gig pool so small, I see more and more brass players that are outstanding in more than one genre, sometimes out of shear financial necessity alone.
There were two defining moments in my musical life that lead me to my dual identity as a performer. The first one was when I was in grade school in St. Helena, CA and I got to see the local high-school jazz band perform. (Incidentally, my older brother and sister whom I adored where playing in the band.) That music hit me like a ton of bricks. I had this wonderfully giddy feeling that left me somewhere between laughing and crying in my seat. The second moment was during my first rehearsal as a member of the San Francisco Youth Orchestra. We were playing Brahms 1, and the trombones don’t play for the first three movements. As the rest of the orchestra read through the opening of the first movement, I was again floored. My body physically reacted to the power of the music surrounding me. I’ve been chasing that feeling now for 30 years.
Although my older brother played trumpet, I was very much a trombone geek when I was younger. I transcribed J.J. Johnson records and Joe Alessi records with the same fervor. I distinctly remember hearing my brother’s copy of Wynton’s record “Standard Time Vol. 1″ and I remember being aware of his amazing piccolo-trumpet playing. And, I remember hearing people quote Wynton as saying that jazz gave him a much better ability to express himself individually, and that is why he gave up classical music. I don’t know if he actually said that, but I understand the sentiment.
There is sometimes the notion that as classical musicians, we don’t have as much personal input in performing a work written by someone else. After spending several years as a member of the Atlantic Brass Quintet, I can say that there is a TON of room for personal input, but perhaps it’s on a smaller scale. To relate it to visual art, it’s almost as if in the quintet we are putting together all of the little dots in a Georges Seurat painting to create the larger work. Put those dots in a slightly different spot and you have a wildly different painting. In jazz, I feel like I’m using broader strokes, but the emotional dividend is the same. In the end, I’m still just trying to find that giddy feeling between laughing and crying.
11. How does nature inform or inspire your artistry?
I grew up in more or less rural California surrounded by hills, rivers and vineyards. I spent my summers in the redwoods. I took boy-scout and school trips to Yosemite, Grand Canyon and many other breathtakingly beautiful places. I took that all for granted because it was what I grew up with. It wasn’t until I had gone away to college and came back that I realized how amazing that landscape really is. My wife and I lived in Brooklyn for several years, and although we still miss the tireless energy of that borough, we both realized that we needed some nature in our lives in order to survive.
We now live in Croton on Hudson which, as the name implies is on the Hudson River north of New York City. We live a short walk away from beautiful parkland, and we both feel like we can breathe a little more now. (You have to understand, in the summertime it stinks in New York. Literally stinks.) I remember going for a run on a spring day in Croton and yelling out loud “it smells amazing here!” The neighbors must have been a little frightened. I need nature for day-to-day survival, not just for inspiring my music. Living in the city, it can be easy to forget that we are all connected; we are all part of the earth.
Atlantic Brass Quintet Second Half Highlights-mp3
12. You have performed with Empire Brass some as well. What was it like, and what did you take away from the experience?
In the mid-1990’s I was asked to play some concerts with the Empire Brass. They were our mentors and inspiration, so it was a great honor. It was at a time when Sam Pilafian, my teacher, was exiting the group, so although it was an honor, it was also pretty intimidating. There was no way I could fill his shoes, but I did my best. I played concerts with them in Texas, New Mexico and Nantucket, and it was always thrilling. The programs were challenging and the music making top notch. I learned a lot about preparation, programming and interacting with the audience. Sam’s teaching and playing continue to inspire me and I will never forget how grateful I am to him and the original members of the Empire Brass for their inspiration and guidance.
13. You seem drawn to eclectic travels and music. What has opened your eyes and inspired you?
I think since the first time I traveled abroad with the Greater Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra I have been fascinated with the fringe benefit all musicians enjoy – traveling to different places and cultures and dropping in on their worlds. With the Atlantic Brass Quintet, I’ve had the opportunity to travel to 48 states and 15 countries around the world, including: France, England, Guatamala, Panama, Costa Rica, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Pakistan, India, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Yemen, Kuwait and Egypt.
Our most exotic adventure was a tour of the Middle East, sponsored by the US State Department in 1995. It was a six-week tour with about 25 concerts in 7 countries. It was very exciting – at times grueling – and we were exposed to many different cultures. We also learned to appreciate how fortunate we were and realized how much we appreciated our own country. We met some beautiful people, witnessed some sad situations, and were amazed at seeing places like the Taj Mahal and the Great Pyramids of Giza. Seeing millions of homeless people in India and experiencing the amazing culture of Japan were two eye openers for me personally.
The quintet has given masterclasses throughout Central America, and I have been to Argentina twice recently and worked with many students there. I have found the talent and thirst for knowledge of these students inspiring, especially with limited resources. I sometimes think that American students don’t fully appreciate how many resources they have available to them. I try to instil in my own students an appreciation for what they have and encourage them to utilize all of the tools at hand.
c. 2015 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved. davidbrubeck.com
Matthew Murchison is a mutineer against bland and expected programming, and proud of it! An Alchemist of timbres, Murchison has successfully stayed “out-of-the-box” for much of his career, and can show you the way out! “The Fourth Valve” tm is intrigued to host Matt Murchison, but please, don’t try this at home!
1. Trombonists orbit jazz ensembles and orchestras, while euphonium players habit brass bands and drum corps. You are a soloist with The River City Brass Band. Are more brass bands the answer for the euphonium in the U. S., or do euphonium players need to think outside the box?
The first thing that comes to mind is that most everyone could try to think outside the box a little more. I think that more brass bands would be great. They can be a great community asset and a wonderful way to build camaraderie. It would be wonderful to see more amateur players involved in brass music-making.
I have no hard data to support this, but it seems to me that the average person’s lack of personal experience with music-making certainly doesn’t help the state of professional musical organizations. For the euphonium player, brass bands are a fantastic place to play challenging repertoire (both original pieces and transcriptions) that one would otherwise not get a chance to play. I believe my friend and euphonium ambassador Jason Ham wrote a very thoughtful article on brass bands and their effect on musicians’ development.
2. As a member of the River Bottom Quartet, you have opened for the Emerson String Quartet. What similarities and differences do you observe between the genres?
Take a string quartet: strip away the strings, tuxes, centuries of repertoire, demand for performances, payment, the general public’s knowledge of the existence of the instrument you’re playing, and add in: Oktoberfests and high cholesterol…you’ve got a euphonium/tuba quartet. So…basically the same.
Of course I’m (partially) kidding. Beyond the similarities of both groups having (*counts on fingers) four members and the concept of the consort and homogenous sound, both groups can be wonderful examples of musicianship and expression and entertainment. Both groups can also be examples of bad programming, poor execution, and ultra-boring performances. You’ll often have some characteristics from each category! Mix and match! It all depends on the outlook and abilities of the members of the group. String quartet isn’t inherently “better” than tuba/euphonium quartet.
It can sometimes be hard to not play down to expectations, so I would encourage tuba/euphonium groups and other less recognized ensembles to not settle for “good for a tuba group” syndrome. If anyone doesn’t already know, check out Sotto Voce quartet (for the good stuff I talked about…not the bad stuff).
3. Matt Murchison Mutiny? Was it that hard finding a word that begins with ‘M’, or is there really a musical mutiny under way? If so, against whom? Why those instruments?
You could’ve stopped at “Was it hard finding a word?” Nearly always. Stupid word search puzzles. The name seemed catchy to me and naming myself in the group makes it MUCH harder for me to get kicked out. The mutiny is against programming that only serves the people who already know they want the product. A program of all Beethoven string quartets (in my opinion) is going to do little for people who don’t already know Beethoven string quartets. If that’s your audience, great! There’s nothing wrong with that. But that feels like exclusionary programming that doesn’t help to include new audiences. So I don’t think we can complain when the audiences for that aren’t growing.
The initial idea was that everyone in the group would do more than one thing. That had to evolve a little based on who was willing to start playing for no money. I play euphonium, tuba, a little trumpet, ukulele, sing, and write. My wife Pam plays flute and piccolo beautifully, so that was a no-brainer. Randy Bibri is a pianist who can read or play changes (which of course comes in very handy…which rhymes with Randy…which is dandy). Randy is also a fine trombone player. I wanted Matt Pickart because he plays violin and viola. I then found out in our first rehearsal that he also played electric bass growing up (and has the 90s rock band stickers on his case to prove it). I put that knowledge to use right away. Matt has started a doctoral degree in Michigan, which has left an unusual hole to fill of “violin, viola, electric bass tripler.” We then have Colin Pinto-Martin on percussion (usually drum set).
4. “Music without borders, entertainment without pandering,”
Do you find that audience appetite for live & interesting music is on the rise or decline?
I think the appetite for interesting music is on the rise for sure. It’s so easy to fall down the YouTube or Spotify rabbit hole of weird, interesting music. When it comes to hearing that stuff live though, I’m not really sure. It seems that some people would certainly rather have the music for free at their house than in exchange for money in public. Of course I think that a live performance can be so much better, but if you’re making YouTube videos that rely heavily on edits and smoke, will it be as effective live? I don’t know.
I know personally that there are only a handful of groups that I would WANT to pay money to see live. There are other events that I WOULD and do pay money for because it is important to support live music. Also, I want the good karma for when I’m playing somewhere with a cover or ticket charge.
5. What did the “Moon fall” experience mean to you and demand from you?
I had originally written Moonfall for euphonium and piano. I had some ideas for a piece and the language of the piece came in to focus fairly quickly. I was then invited to solo with the US Army Band “Pershing’s Own” at their annual tuba/euphonium conference in DC. They were willing to let me play my own piece which I was (and am) very grateful for. So I got to work on orchestrating it for euphonium, winds, piano, and percussion. The wind section doesn’t contain saxes or euphoniums.
I had to get the orchestration done pretty quickly and I got a lot of work done on it while I was on the road with a group called River City 6. If I recall, the Army Band needed the music in early October for a late January performance. I know that they didn’t look at the music until January, but you don’t argue with deadlines, or the military, and this had both so I got it done. The act of rehearsing and performing it was a mixed bag of feelings to be honest. I continue to learn the lesson that everyone is the center of their own universe and that no one will care about your project/passion/piece as much as you do, so you’ve got to care enough to make that ok.
I don’t mean to say that people don’t care at all about your thing, but you created it, they didn’t. The wind parts are at times demanding and I was told that the orchestration was at times unusual. I was of course told these things as if they were things to fix, but when I’m writing, the music is either right or wrong, and for me this was right. The “unusual” orchestrations sounded just like I hoped they would and so I was happy about the result. The performance went quite well and the Army band is full of great professionals. Truth be told, I would’ve liked it a bit faster in the performance…but I often do.
6. How did Lauren Veronie come to commission “Sternum Buster”, and what expressive ideas were you exploring?
Ha! I like how you asked the question as if a piece called “Tales from the Road: The Sternum Buster” is a piece of bona fide Art with the capital “A.” Thanks! My guess is that Lauren was accidentally under the influence of a long-lost strain of peyote that made her think, “I needs me a Murchison piece!” I know that Lauren had played another piece of mine called “Blue-Green Day,” which has nothing to do with the band by the way. She said that she wanted something challenging to perform. I made several sketches but nothing felt right.
I was on a 2 or 3 week tour with River City 6 across the Midwest when inspiration struck (or more accurately, cracked its sternum, in front of me). During the concert we gave away a free CD to the first person to come up on stage. This is what happened:
(from my program notes)
A middle-aged woman with big hair and a Cosby sweater started to get up. Just as she reached the aisle, a young girl wearing a t-shirt and the confidence of youth decided that she too wanted the free CD. They reached the aisle at the same time and their eyes met. The determination that serves the hardworking Midwesterner well would in this case be someone’s downfall. It was clear after a split second that neither woman was going to back down. And so the race began.
As the crowd cheered the two gladiators, the women began walking briskly toward the stage. The young girl began to pull ahead, but the crafty veteran locked arms with the girl, ensuring the race remained close. The crowd became more animated, even frenetic, as the speed-walk turned in to a full-fledged run. As their velocity increased, their chances of stopping decreased. I can only imagine that the hunger for victory was so great that it impeded the spatial perception of the athletes. They were now barreling toward the stage at a Usain Bolt-ian pace. They were racing for a free CD with such ferocity that one would have thought the CD format was something completely new, and that the previous technology had been word of mouth.
With arms still locked, their legs also became intertwined, causing the women to lose their balance. With a bird’s-eye-view from the stage, I knew this couldn’t end well. The young girl was able to break free, but the older woman’s momentum could not be denied as she continued to fall forward like a mighty redwood…in a Cosby sweater. The look in her eyes combined with her speed and loss of appendage control reminded us of a lit sorority girl trying to outrun her bad decisions. She was now helpless to stop it. Her sternum connected squarely with the precipice of the stage.
The sound of cheers and laughter that had filled the hall went suddenly silent as the air was sucked out of the room. The only sound in the hall came from the stage, as Lance Laduke, lifting his leg in a reflex action, exclaimed “OH!!!”
After what seemed like an eternity, I remembered that I was on the microphone, and should probably say something. “Are you OK?” I asked sincerely. The young girl looked at me and whispered, “give her the CD.”
After another long pause, a man (we assume it was her husband) slowly arose from his seat to claim his better half. She left the hall but we were later told she was OK. The hall was still silent. I spoke again, soothing the audience with these words; “We’d like to close the first half with a medley of tunes from West Side Story…”
That was a memorable night and an unforgettable audience to be sure. After the show more than one member of the group was asked by the same person: “What state is Pennsylvania in?” A nice old man also told me that listening to me play high notes made his shorts tight. My therapist thinks I’m almost past that.
The piece itself is through composed but contains the following sections: Newton, IA, The Rise of Cosby Sweater, The Young Girl’s Theme, Their Eyes Meet, The Race and Crash, The Young Girl’s Victory Lap (which of course didn’t happen, but I liked the image for the piece), and finally the recap of Newton, IA.
I couldn’t have written this piece without the help of bad decisions and ill-advised competition.
7. Jazz is America’s art form and greatest cultural contribution to the world, and yet the average American has become more remote and resistant to it’s allure. What is going wrong?
I’m probably the wrong person to ask about this as I really don’t know much. However, being a human, I’ll be happy to give my strong, uneducated opinion anyway! My grandfather was a jazz pianist and I was able to hear him play several times before he passed away. I feel very lucky to have had that opportunity for lots of reasons. I bring this up not to be maudlin but to preface the rest of my answer with the disclaimer that I’m very drawn to those standard “Great American Songbook” tunes. I think they’re wonderful and I enjoy just playing the melodies for enjoyment.
Here’s why I rarely, if ever, listen to jazz. I was always taught to listen more than you talk (the length of this interview aside). I feel like to listen to some jazz (more specifically improvisation) is to hear someone talk incessantly without having anything to say. If that were a conversation you’d fake a phone call or sudden onset stomach flu and leave the room. If I’ve got one minute of tune, followed by six minutes of solo, followed by one minute of tune, that ratio is all wrong to me. It’s the same idea as the all-Beethoven string quartet show. Who are you doing this for?
Of course some people have voices you could listen to forever, whether it’s writing, talking, or improvising. Looking back, one of the things I loved about my grandfather’s performances was his treatment of the tunes. He would often play the tune straight ahead, then morph it into a waltz or samba or whatever. There would be a couple solo choruses but it never dominated the tune. Perhaps if I were more educated about jazz I’d be more drawn to the six-minute solo section, but I’m not sure if requiring a high level of listener education for comprehension and/or appreciation is a good way to increase audiences. I think that the most effective pieces of music or art don’t require the consumer to have undergone a training course to appreciate them.
8. Which singers inspire you? What do you think instrumentalists could learn from the way singers approach music and audiences?
I wish I sounded like James Taylor when I sing. Bobby McFerrin is great. I really like the singer’s voice from Lake Street Dive. Other than that I’m inspired by singers who sound a bit unconventional and/or write their own stuff. This includes, but is not limited to, Randy Newman, Tom Waits, Dave Frishberg, and Elvis Costello (I love “The Juliet Letters”). I’m also a big fan of Ben Folds and Chris Thile in general.
For the second part of the question I’m reminded of a story that I think my grandfather told me. Forgive me if I’m making this up, but the idea is solid I think. George Gershwin was asked who his favorite singer was to sing his music. He said he preferred Fred Astaire. The gist was that Astaire didn’t sing the songs like a “singer” but like a person. I like to think that the goal is to communicate person to person, not Artist to subject.
9. What is the typical view/conception of the euphonium and what do you see/imagine when you behold the instrument?
The typical view for someone off the street is “what is that?” This isn’t necessarily bad. I had a group called Mainspring that played largely Celtic music. We went on the road for a couple of weeks and I was worried how audiences would react. The euphonium isn’t technically “supposed” to be playing this music.
What I found was quite liberating. The upside of “what is that?” is that there are fewer notions among audiences about what you “should” be doing. Other euphonium players may care about that, but audiences don’t. I was happy to find that as long as the product spoke to the people, the vehicle really didn’t matter.
c. 2015 DavidWilliam Brubeck All Rights Reserved. davidbrubeck.com
Images courtesy of Matthew Murchison www.mattmurchisonmutiny.com
An anaglyph is a stereo gram like image which relies on two different colors (e.g. red and green), or in this case timbres. Featuring the instrumental tone colors of tenor and bass trombone, this is a tongue-in-cheek contribution to undergraduate recitals everywhere!
I had tried this concept with Charley Harrison in 1989, but our performance fell through. Later the idea was premiered with the now famous guitarist Jonathon Kreisberg substituting for Tom Lippincott circa 1992. But these were all “covers” of others’ originals. Thom Everett first suggested a duo based on an original Stereogram, and Josh Hauser was the first to pull it off! He and percussionist Eric Willie performed Stereogram No. 11-“Miami”. Written for my two former students Brandon and Ernie, this is the next one in the chronology.
About ten years ago, Chris Brubeck told me he could “hear” the changes for Stereogram No. 3 which I had dedicated to George Roberts. He was correct; it was originally written with guitar accompaniment, and Tom Lippincott and I only recently premiered the duo version in the Fall of 2014 alongside the new work by Federico Bonacossa-“In Principio Erat Sonus”. I think the idea is catching!
This selection is a reprint from the 2014 Journal of The International Trombone Association. Special thanks to the Journal and Editor Diane Drexler. Enjoy!
c. 2014 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved. davidbrubeck.com
My article on trombone slide motion is approaching it’s fourth anniversary. I am still surprised by the variety of successful slide motion strategies. While some seem to prefer articulation aided by the snap of the slide, I most often prefer the Bill Watrous inspired approach of fluid slide motion, choosing instead to define the resonance with variances in embouchure firmness and tongue speed/intensity.
One of my most respected colleagues, Ken Thompkins of the DSO, summed up the article with the following, “I could have written that article for you: Don’t move your slide any faster than you have to!”
Here is a study in the motion of the trombone slide, use the type slide motion of your choice! There are many opportunities to move the slide using the joint of the wrist alone in this simple melody. Enjoy!
Many tubists have a broad based experience, but not often is it as deep and varied as that of Mike Roylance. As principal tubist in the BSO and professor at New England Conservatory and Boston University his virtuosity is noteworthy, and based on his technically demanding warm-up dubbed “THUNDERDOME”. But Roylance’s origins in what he refers to as “out door chamber music” (The Future Corps at The E. P. C O. T. Center of Walt Disney World), hearken back to a reservoir experience drawn on by many practicioners of “The Fourth Valve” tm- Drum and Bugle Corps. From DCI to Tanglewood, join Mike Roylance on the musical excursion of a lifetime. Enjoy!
1. How do you conceive of, describe or imagine the ideal tuba sound?
Wow, that is a very explosive question.
I’m not sure if I can narrow down my ideal tuba sound to a few words.
My concept of sound is at the fore of every moment when I play the tuba. Depending on the circumstance, I might want to sound like a baritone or tenor singer. I may want to sound like the pedals of an organ or a bombastic a semi-truck’s horn. I may want to sound like a string or woodwind instrument. While, I’ll never sound exactly like any of these particular sounds, having that concept of sound in front of the production process helps to shape what comes out of the end of my bell.
How far from this ideal have you traveled (on purpose), during performances?
I have traveled far and wide with regard to sound concepts. From playing with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, to playing with the Sam Rivers Jazz Orchestra, to playing with the Future Corps, to playing the electric bass in bands playing AC/DC and Rush tunes, I rely on all of my experiences to come up with a particular sound concept for the moment at hand.
2. What did your learn from playing in traditional drum corps and how often do you draw upon those experiences now?
From my experiences with Suncoast Sound, a top-tier drum and bugle corps, I learned a great deal about the fundamentals of brass playing. I had several wonderful instructors, two of whom, Robert W Smith, Frank Williams were extremely well-versed in brass pedagogy. My daily fundamental routine, dubbed THUNDERDOME by several of my students is mostly the same routine that I was taught in those formative years. My practice discipline also comes from this period in my life, it was a bountiful time in my maturing as a musician. I am very thankful for that period in my life.
a 3. What sort of chamber music and solo playing opportunities do you enjoy most? How important are they to you as a musician?
I helped form the BSO Brass Quintet which is comprised of all of the principal brass players of the BSO. Although we do not have too many opportunities to practice and perform with our busy lives, I treasure every moment with this group. Actually, I had a twelve year career as chamber musician at Walt Disney World with the Future Corps and other groups within the parks; if what defines a chamber group is the lack of conductor. Adjusting to life in the BSO or any orchestra or band after never relying on a conductor for anything was difficult, but made easier with the skills that I brought with me from my time on the streets of EPCOT. Time spent in chamber groups is of GREAT benefit to the developing musician. The intuitive ability to adjust pitch/time/dynamics/line in the moment will be finely honed in a chamber setting.
4. What was your typical warm-up routine like as an undergrad as compared to when you started winning symphonic auditions?
As I mentioned before, my routine has largely stayed the same since my days in drum corps. The exercises are constantly changing as I am constantly moving to better my skills, but the seven basic areas of brass fundamentals, breathing, buzzing (free-buzz and mouthpiece), long tones, extreme range (both high and low), chromatic patterns, flexibility and articulation are covered every day.
5. What is the National Brass Ensemble all about, and how did you become involved?
The National Brass Ensemble was founded this past summer utilizing some of the most prominent brass players in the United States. I am extremely honored to be a part of this amazing collection of players. Last summer, we recorded an album to be released this next September of 2015 with a release concert/party in Orchestra Hall in Chicago. The genesis of this particular project was to re-record the famous album recorded in 1959 and 1968, The Antiphonal Music of Gabrieli recorded by the brass sections of Chicago, Cleveland and Philadelphia. You don’t want to miss this event.
6. What do you see as the major pedagogical points which:
need the most attention yet…
have had the greatest impact…?
See number 4.
7. What is the best tuba playing you have ever heard?
There is definitely not enough space in this interview to properly answer this question. My staple go-to solo tuba recordings include the solo projects of Floyd Cooley, Gene Pokorny, Jon Sass, Walter Hilgers, Roland Szentpali, Sergio Carolina and Toby Hanks. Suffice to say, I am always eager to listen to some of my good friends and heroes…Willie Clark, Chris Olka, Claude Kashnig, James Jenkins, Robert Carpenter, Mark Thiele, Dennis Nulty, Aaron McCalla, Eli Newberger, Pete Link, Zach DeVries, John Stevens, Alessandro Fossi, Warren Deck,…. I’m sure I’m leaving out a thousand more.
8. What is the best tuba playing you have ever done?
Hopefully, it hasn’t happened thus far. TBD
9. Can you compare a day in the life in the BSO to a day in the life in Future Corps?
Sure, while in the Future Corps, my day started with a strong fundamental routine followed by 7 outside performances playing a GG contra bass bugle played on your shoulder while marching. While in the BSO my day starts out with a strong fundamental routine followed rehearsals and/or performances all done inside while sitting down, playing a CC or F tuba. Other than the repertoire, the only difference is that I now play inside while sitting down.
c. 2015 David William Brubeck All Rights reserved. davidbrubeck.com
Throughout his years with the Boston Brass, Lance LaDuke was THE standard bearer for euphonium in a traditional brass quintet. Outgoing, innovative, outspoken, and intellectual, Lance finds a a successful destination at the end of the road, and takes “The Fourth Valve” tm Along for the Ride! 1. How did your concept of sound change when switching back and forth between trombone and euphonium in Boston Brass?
My sound concept on the euphonium really didn’t change all that much. That said, I did have to clean up the “left edge” of my notes to match the rest of the group, particularly the trumpets. Otherwise, if anything, we used the euphonium to provide another color to the group and exploited the chance (when the trumpets played flugel) to go completely conical. That was a lot of fun. It wasn’t all that fun dragging both horns around the planet but the musical flexibility was great.
On the trombone, I was (and still am!) a work in progress. The story has been told quite often but I never played trombone until the 6 months leading up to joining the group. I used the euphonium early on as a way to cover for my still-developing trombone skills. The guys were great about letting me grow into the gig and I think I brought other stuff to the position (comedy, singing, business skills, etc.) that made up for my trombone “abilities.” All that being said, I do feel like I grew into the trombone and sometimes felt almost like a trombonist instead of a doubler!
Did you use different mouthpieces?
Mouthpiece questions!!! I’m generally a “plug and play” guy. I started on a 51D in 10th grade (1982) and just chalked any problems with my playing up to me, rather than the equipment. I played a 51D on both horns initially in BB. At Sam Pilafian’s suggestion, during a coaching session he did with the band, I switched to a 51 for the trombone. Now (after years of staying out of the brass arms race) I have fallen in LOVE with Parker Mouthpieces! Mike is making some amazing mouthpieces and I am having a blast making music with them now.
2. What was your first introduction to chamber music, and what chamber music paths did you follow before the BB? Which ensembles? Who were your mentors? (HS, College, Pro).
My first experience was a tuba/euph quartet in high school. I didn’t do all that much in college, mostly tuba quartets. Once I got into the Air Force Band, things really picked up and I ended up playing a lot of chamber music. We had a tuba/euph quartet (with Don Nauman, Gil Corella and Dave Porter) that rehearsed and performed regularly. We even took a couple short tours. The most fun I had, though was in a brass quartet that was the brainchild of trumpeter Bill Adcock. In the AF, we were known as Top Brass and our civilian alter ego was Nothing But Valves (Bill, lucky for me, didn’t like trombone players). Andy Wilson was the other trumpet and Sam Compton played horn. We were very busy as a group. We rehearsed and gigged a lot, I did a lot of arranging and transcribing for the group, we had pieces written for us and recorded a CD.
The quartet was an amazing learning opportunity for me in pretty much every respect. Up to that point, I had primarily played in tuba quartets and often had the melody. In NBV, I was the bass voice (we ended up changing instrumentation to two trumpets, euphonium and tuba but I preferred the original instrumentation) and had to be counted on to provide both time and intonation stability. My success at those skills remains open for debate.
The other things I learned in NBV were the nuts and bolts of running a small business that happens to be in the music making industry. Division of labor, scheduling, budget, promotion, programming, talking to audiences, negotiating contracts, interpersonal relationships, goal setting. The list is nearly endless. The foundation I learned there helped me later with Boston Brass and currently in my position at Carnegie Mellon University, where I teach classes Music Business and Marketing and Communications, am the freshman advisor and also mentor individual students and groups launch their careers.
In terms of mentors during that time, there are two that come to mind. I’ve mentioned his name already, but Sam Pilafian was incredibly helpful, supportive and inspirational. He spent untold hours with me in person and on the phone, patiently walking me through the ins and outs of the business. He continues to be a mentor and inspiration. Second is Pat Sheridan. In addition to being one of my best friends for the last 20-plus years, Pat has helped me sort out more opportunities, challenges and problems than pretty much anyone else on the planet.
Mentor questions are tough, because for every person you include, you omit many more. Ray Mase helped NBV quite a lot. JD Shaw, Andrew Hitz and David Cutler continue to be in my “inner circle” of musical co-conspirators. Actually, Andrew and I are partners in Pedal Note Media. We’ve released one album (Brass Recording Project, Vol. 1, The Arrangements of JD Shaw), will be releasing an e-book later this Spring and have three podcasts in the works. The last three guys I want to mention are Tim Lautzenheiser, Denis Colwell (my boss at CMU) and Joe Zenas, a great friend since college, now CEO of the Thinkwell Group in LA. Those three have been great sounding boards for an unending supply of crappy ideas.
3. What was your warm up like in college as opposed to being on the road?
In undergrad at Michigan State University, my “routine” wasn’t. I was much more haphazard and unfocused, despite Phil Sniders’ best efforts. I had two things going for me. Playing always came pretty easy for me and I played all the time. At one point, I was in three concert bands, the marching band (Go Green!!!) and the tuba euphonium ensemble. I was in rehearsals roughly 20 hours a week or so. That’s where I learned to read and play different styles.
In the year I spent in grad school at The University of Akron, I went in the opposite direction. I was laser-focused on getting a military band gig. My warm up was about an hour’s worth of flexibility, articulation, scale, arpeggio and interval studies. It was about learning how my brain and body worked together to make music.
The road provided the biggest challenge since no two days were the same. In general, I developed a set of exercises, about 20 minute’s worth, that ensured I hit all the usual suspects. It’s much more about being efficient and working on the stuff that needs to be worked on. Simple to understand. Hard to remember.
4. What do you look for in a euphonium? In a trombone?
As I mentioned, I’m not much of a gear guy. Jupiter Band Instruments, particularly the XO series of pro horns, are the horns I play now. The folks at Jupiter are amazing. They are as passionate about music education as I am and I would stack their horns up against anyone. Get Banded!!!
5. Which avenues in music and chamber music in particular are ripe for exploration by euphonium players?
In the US, brass quartets are probably the biggest “traditional” opportunity. There is a ton of great music that is underplayed. And from a biz standpoint, there is one fewer mouth to feed. I tried to show that the euphonium has a place in quintets. I don’t think it works 100% of the time, but neither do flugel horns. Outside of that, I’d say the biggest opportunity is wherever the player’s mind will take them. Three of my former students have done amazing, unexpected and wonderful things. Matthew Murchison has had a couple of bands, Mainspring and The Matthew Murchison Mutiny. The instrumentation is non-traditional and the music is great! Koichiro Suzuki’s Cuidado is a tango band with euphonium as one of the primary voices. Fernando Deddos had a choro band here in Pittsburgh while he was here, again with euphonium as one of the main voices. I try to encourage my students (and anyone else who will listen, and some who never will) to go where their musical ear takes them. I’ve never been a big supporter of traditional models, I think there’s a bit of laziness there, creatively. Ooooh. Controversy.
6. Name two types of inspirations
I’m not quite sure where to go here. Here’s a Top 10 list of things that I’m currently paying attention to:
1. Anything by Seth Godin.
2. The stuff Jack Conte is doing with Pomplamoose and Patreon.
3. Chef Jamie Oliver is on a mission to change the world and makes me think I am not thinking big enough.
4. Tim Ferris’ obsession with learning, maximizing performance is key to one of my next projects.
5. Zoe Keating’s willingness to be open as a musician trying to navigate these new waters.
6. Tim Lautzenheiser’s drive, devotion and commitment to music education.
7. Gordon Ramsay’s passion and honesty (he kind of reminds me of my Dad).
8. Louis CK. Honest. Hilarious. Fearless.
9. Jerry Seinfeld’s “Comedians in Cars” series is always both funny and interesting to me.
10. This last one sounds like an inspirational poster, but the students I get to work with are amazing. None of us knows where this industry is headed, but with those folks creating it, I’m excited and optimistic.
8. What types of projects are you working on now?
Besides the Pedal Note Media stuff with Andrew, I’m looking to expand on my book, Music Practice Coach. I have some more materials in development. I’m trying to get it out to as many teachers and students as I can. While I’m at it, anyone can get a free copy of that book by filling out the contact page at lanceladuke.com.
The other thing I am launching later this year is a crazy idea I have been knocking around for a few years. It’s called “Lance Learns to Play.” I’m going to learn to play every instrument on the planet. Really. It’s a cross between “Dirty Jobs” and “Man Vs.Food.” It’ll primarily exist as a YouTube channel but there will be supplementary materials released as well. The hope is that by making a fool of myself, other folks may pick up an instrument for the first time or will continue to play with a greater appreciation of why. I’m hoping that you’ll learn something you didn’t know about each instrument and have a greater appreciation for both the music that is made and the people who make it, whether as a hobby or as a profession. What could possibly go wrong?
9. What is some of the best euphonium playing you have ever heard? The best playing of any instrument I have heard has less to do with the instrument and more with the musician. I think we often get into this sense of “Music Olympics” where the only thing that is appreciated is finger/tongue speed, high (or low) range and histrionics. Heaven knows I was a victim of that approach. Heck, it’s fun! That being said, one of the reasons I don’t play much “euphonium music” is that I don’t hear all that much that I want to tackle. I want to feel like the music-making is worth the technical effort and not just stuff to show off to other euphonium players. General audiences don’t care. We want to be treated as a “serious” instrument and some think that if the notes per second ratio is high enough, that will automatically happen. I disagree. Pat Sheridan told me years ago that he stopped playing “Hailstorm” for general audiences, because they simply didn’t understand that the triple tonguing he was doing was difficult. They just thought something was up with his sound. Then he plays a Brahms song or “Deep River” and musicians and non-musicians alike are moved. There’s a take-away there for musicians who are paying attention. I don’t suspect this opinion will make me terribly popular in some circles but there you are.
10. What is the best euphonium playing you have ever done?
I did have this beautiful D-flat one time that still gives me shivers. I think it was in the late ’90s.
11. What was it like to be in the Boston Brass? Do you have any favorite personal or musical memories? Did you feel as though you were charting new territory as a euphonium player?
I am an incredibly lucky person. I have had the opportunity to play with amazing musicians, in spectacular halls for great audiences and students all over the world. This is not just the case for my time in Boston Brass but with The USAF Band, NBV, River City Brass Band, Brass Band of Battle Creek, and on and on. Lucky, lucky, lucky. The great memories are too numerous to list. Plus some of them are not out of the statute of limitations.
I have never thought I was charting new territory per se. I have tried (and sometimes failed) to be as prepared as I can be for whatever opportunity arises, follow my gut (even when it’s scary, and it usually is), be easy to work with (failed at that plenty), and use every challenge, limitation or setback as an opportunity to be creative (isn’t that the point?).
c. 2015 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved. davidbrubeck.com
A successful teacher, soloist and chamber musician, Jamie Lipton has explored the traditional aspects of euphonium playing with grace and aplomb. A protege of Brian Bowman and Rex Martin, her performances and pedigree have prepared her to address the frontiers that lie ahead for the tribe of “The Fourth Valve” tm. Enjoy!
1. Three friends meet after a band/wind ensemble rehearsal. One friend plays euphonium, another trombone, and a third tuba. None of them double on another instrument. The tubist and the trombonist could both be heading to quintet, and later orchestra. The trombonist may be headed for jazz or pop music. Does this intensify the desire for the euphonium player to become a classical soloist? or put them in a box?
Euphonium players are starting to break down barriers – I play euphonium quite a lot in two different professional brass quintets, for example. Admittedly, it is kind of annoying that euphoniumists rarely get to play in orchestras. Many of my colleagues at Henderson are members of local professional orchestras or get called frequently to sub, and I am somewhat jealous that I don’t have that opportunity on a regular basis.
I am very fortunate that I get to play in a brass band. It doesn’t pay, but it’s so much fun and very musically rewarding for me. The fact that many ensembles don’t use euphonium doesn’t so much make me want to focus on solo literature as it makes me wish I were a better trombonist!
2. How do you conceive of and execute tone color differently as a soloist as compared to an ensemble?
As a soloist, you get to choose the tone color you want to use. In an ensemble, you’re limited to the colors that blend with whatever instrument is playing with you. I’ve noticed that some older euphonium players, when they play in band, play very soloistically no matter who’s playing with them – I think this is because bands and band composers used to appreciate the euphonium more.
There is still a lot of great new wind band music being written, but many modern composers don’t seem to understand what the euphonium is capable of. If I had my way, I’d play with a beautiful, singing tone (and vibrato!) most of the time, but when I’m playing whole notes in octaves with the tubas, that’s not very practical.
3. How many high school or college euphonium players would you estimate come into contact with the music of Rich Matteson or Bob Brookmeyer? Are jazz euphonium/valve players well known?
I’d say they are well-known among three groups of people: euphonium pedagogues, jazz pedagogues, and young euphonium players who are really into jazz (particularly at UNT). I have played in many jazz bands, but more for education than enjoyment. I haven’t spent much time listening to Matteson or Brookmeyer, but I certainly appreciate what they did for the whole concept of jazz euphonium/valve trombone. Anyone who takes the euphonium to places it doesn’t normally go has all of my respect!
4. What chamber music experiences have you had? What chamber music opportunities would you have like to have had? Do you see any potential niches for euphonium in chamber music?
As a euphoniumist, I have played in tuba quartets, euphonium quartets, and brass quintets (where I play the trombone part). Tuba quartets have some GREAT rep if you’re willing to look for it. I think the idea of a euphonium quartet is relatively new and exciting, although there’s not a lot of rep. Some of my friends from UNT have a euph quartet that’s been touring and seems to be gaining some attention. It’s such a versatile instrument that the possibilities are endless!
I had a fun experience last summer where I played a bassoon part in a woodwind quintet. I was muted the whole time, but that was my choice cause I thought it sounded more like a bassoon. (I did this once in my high school orchestra, too.) Would that count as a niche? Many small collegiate music departments don’t have a lot of double reeds. Maybe muted euphonium could catch on as a bassoon substitute in woodwind quintets.
5. What do you do for a warm up? How has it changed since college?
I think any college professor will tell you that they no longer have time for the 45-minute warm-up they did as a student. I used to play tons of Remington exercises before I’d even think about practicing. Now, sometimes I only have a few 10-minute breaks between lessons to do all of my practicing for the day. When I’ve been away from my instrument, I like to play tunes by ear. Themes from orchestral rep, musical theatre, folk songs, whatever – and I encourage my students to do the same. Tunes get you re-acclimated to your horn, they get you listening to sound and intonation, and most importantly they get you thinking about making music. Lately I’ve been playing “Make Our Garden Grow” from Bernstein’s Candide in three or four different keys. After that, I’m ready to go.
Rex Martin, my professor at Northwestern, impressed upon me the idea that any musician should be able to play a gig with no warm up, because you never know when you might have to do that. Mark Carlson and I started a routine one summer where we would show up to the practice rooms on Monday morning and play a solo for each other with no warm-up. It was a productive exercise, and I’d recommend it to anyone who feels dependent on their current warm-up routine.
6. Trumpet players typically own 2 to four different sized instruments, from piccolo to C, Bb to Flugel. Many tubists perform on two tubas, either Bb or C and F. many trombonists now play small and large bore tenor, or tenor and bass. Euphonium players tend to play everything on one size of instrument.
How do you account for the apparent lack of timbrel contrast?
I don’t see a lack of contrast. I think the euphonium has a great range of tone colors by itself. Also, a lot of those extra instruments listed above are used specifically for orchestra and jazz, which aren’t really genres that use euphonium. But we do have options – small bore euphs (usually used in jazz), baritones (used in brass band and sometimes in wind ensemble and tuba choir), and marching instruments.
7. How much time (& how) do you practice vibrato? Without ? How does it help you be expressive?
As I said earlier, I love to play with vibrato. It makes the euphonium sound like a singing voice, and I think the voice is the most expressive of all the instruments. Vibrato came very naturally to me as a kid because I listened to so much vocal music – once my teacher told me how to use my lips/jaw to produce vibrato, I was off and running because I knew exactly how I wanted it to sound. I don’t spend much time practicing vibrato anymore, but when my students learn vibrato I have them do pitch-bending exercises with a metronome, and I tell them to have a concept of what/who they want their vibrato to sound like.
The only times I practice without vibrato are 1) when I’m playing technical exercises like long tones or lip slurs, 2) when I’m practicing a passage where I’ve specifically decided not to use vibrato, and 3) when I’m practicing trombone (and even then I use a little bit).
8. What is the best euphonium playing you have ever heard?
My favorite player is Brian Bowman – he was the first professional euphoniumist I ever heard, and I studied with him for both of my advanced degrees. I think my favorite time I ever heard him play was when he performed the second movement of the John Stevens concerto (a lovely piece of music). I was turning pages for the pianist at this particular performance, and I was just so moved by Dr. Bowman’s tone and musicality that I could barely perform my one task.
Honorable mentions for best euphonium playing I’ve ever heard would have to include Demondrae Thurman playing Mahler’s “Songs of a Wayfarer” – so beautiful! – and for technical prowess, Ben Pierce. I don’t remember what he played at ITEC but I do remember being deeply impressed and a little disgusted; that man’s technique is insane.
9. What is the best euphonium playing you have ever done?
Never being satisfied with my own playing, this question is difficult to answer. I’ve played in many rounds of many different auditions and competitions, not to mention solo recitals – but nothing really stands out as the best I’ve ever done because I always remember what could have gone better. I will say that I was pretty happy with my last recital. While there were some things I could have improved, I think the audience really enjoyed my musicianship and my programming. I had a GREAT accompanist-and I enjoyed myself.
10. What are your musical and non musical influences?
Vocal music, specifically musical theater. I love to sing, and when I was a kid I wanted to be a singer on Broadway. I think listening to so much high-quality singing when I was young was the main thing that shaped me as a musician. My first music lessons were in piano, and I was a Suzuki student, which meant that I learned all of my music by ear. When I eventually learned to read music, my teacher began DRILLING me on scales and music theory. I didn’t enjoy it very much at the time, but when I got to high school I realized that reading music and understanding it came so much more easily to me than to most of my peers.
Lately, my biggest non-musical influence has been sports, specifically soccer. I am a huge fan of soccer and watching world-class athletes play has made me realize, as many people have done, the similarities between athletics and music performance. Using sports-oriented visualization exercises (for example, imagining taking a penalty kick) has helped me with my practice strategies, my accuracy, and my performance anxiety. I haven’t read “The Inner Game of Tennis” but I should, because I would probably find a lot more ideas that would influence my playing in a positive way.
c. 2015 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved. davidbrubeck.com