Empire Brass Member Jeffrey Curnow Illustrates to “FIVE!” His Remembrances of The Empire Brass Quintet & Rolf Smedvigunnamed-1

Jeffrey Curnow has served as assistant principal trumpet with the Philadelphia Orchestra since the turn of the century, and preced that with six years as principal trumpet with the Dallas Symphony, and soloist. It is, perhaps, his 15 recordings and years spent with the Empire Brass Quintet (EBQ), that have etched him most deeply on the world of brass. As “FIVE!”tm & the music world mourn the loss of the brass quintet’s most ardent champion, Rolf Smedvig, Jeffrey Curnow remembers his time with Rolf and the ground-breaking Empire Brass.

1. What are your first recollections of The Empire Brass?
My earliest recollections of the EBQ were from the late 70s, when I was a student at Temple University. That’s the first time I heard the group’s Ewald LP. I thought that recording was terrific but at that point in time, I have to admit, the Canadian Brass was sort of stealing the show with their innovative programming and arrangements.

Nobody was thinking this at the time but it really was the birth of a new era in brass chamber music. A younger generation of players was taking the brass quintet to a new level, pushing the limits of the ensemble, and the two groups on the forefront were the Canadians and Empire.

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

The Empire Brass Quintet www.davidbrubeck.com

The Empire Brass Quintet

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

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

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

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

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

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

imagesI always joked that I thought that one of Rolf’s big regrets was that he couldn’t find a way to make a quintet work with just one trumpet. I had to change my sound and articulation a bit so I would start incorporating some of what Rolf was doing in his morning warm up routine into my routine and, eventually, I started to sound more and more like he did. It was his approach to the trumpet that I had to adopt to really make the group sound cohesive. I still use parts of his routine today.

images-14. What are your favorite Empire Brass recordings?

My favorite Empire recordings are the two Class Brass CDs we put together. The group was really pushing the envelope on those discs.

5. Which players in EBQ stand out to you over the years?
All the various members of the band I worked with are stand outs. Really. All incredible soloists. I learned something from everyone. Although, I will say that it was Rolf who would light the fire under the group. He’d walk into a rehearsal with an impossible project and find a way to get it done. I’ve met very few people in my career that were as driven as Rolf. He could be insistent to an aggravating degree (a very nice way to put it) but he got results.

6. What approaches to brass quintet do you feel that Empire pioneered? Where do you see that influence most in today’s groups?
The concept behind the EBQ: a brass quintet that plays like the brass section of a symphony orchestra. That’s why our bells always faced the audience, unlike the traditional quintet set up. The Canadians would move about the stage and set up in different positions, depending on the piece, sometimes sitting on stools, but we would stay in a fixed position, standing in the center of the stage for most of the show.

It was all about the sound and the music. I think that ‘bells front’ concept has had a big influence on today’s brass quintets. We wanted a commanding onstage presence.


7. Do you have any favorite memories of the road or special concerts or collaborative artists with EBQ which spring to mind?
The memorable moments a far too many to mention here but I do have a few that stand out. We’d often play organ shows with Doug Major, who was the organist at the National Cathedral in D.C.. Lots of fun. Not only was Doug a great hang but he was an outstanding player who perfectly fit into the group’s concept. One show we did with Doug in Tokyo’s Suntory Hall went over 2.5 hours. There was so much sound coming off the stage, I was afraid we’d get sued!

I remember a concert in the middle-of-nowhere USA, just the five of us, where Rolf decided we’d change up the program and start the second half with the Karlheinz Stockhausen Brass Quintet.

I’d never played it and I was frantically looking through my folder and couldn’t find it. I told Rolf I didn’t have it and he said, “I don’t have it either.

“You know why I don’t have it?”, he asked, “Because Stockhausen never wrote it.” We preceded to open the second half with a completely improvised piece. The audience ate it up. They loved it. Even our road manager, who was at the back of the hall selling CDs, thought it was a “really cool piece”.

I remember a concert at the Tonhalle in Zurich where the audience ovation was so loud it sounded like a soccer match. I played concerts on Soviet television, Japan television, British television and did Christmas tunes on both the Today Show and Good Morning America. We had Leonard Bernstein, Michael Tilson Thomas, and Michael Torke composing for us. We stood in front of the Chicago Symphony, New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, Japan Philharmonic, BBC radio orchestra and many others.

The thrill of meeting artists like Timofei Dokschitzer and Philip Jones while traveling the world, I’ll never forget.

unnamed-4One of the greatest benefits of being in the EBQ was meeting Armando Ghitalla. He was a hero to me and like a father to Rolf. “Mundi” was the only guy to ever coach the group and I learned a great deal from the time he’d spend with us. He was also one of the nicest people I’ve ever met.

8. What was your background prior to the group, and how did your experiences with the group change your outlook on music?

I was basically a freelancer in NY and CT before joining the group. I was Principal Trumpet of the New Haven Symphony, did some teaching at “U.-Conn.”, and lived in Branford, CT. I’d take a train into NY for an occasional gig or rehearsals and concerts with the NY Trumpet Ensemble. I saw Rolf split a recital with the EBQ at the 92nd Street YMCA in the early 80s but never thought I’d ever be a part of that world. My goal was an orchestra job.

When I was hired by Empire, I took to it very quickly and found that I liked being one of only five on stage. One benefit of being in a group like Empire is the fact that you have to keep doing crazier stunts with every new CD release. This means you’re constantly growing and developing as a player. Every year I got better, in every way, as a player, musician and performer. I got to know the ins and outs of recording and did some producing for other brass groups. I learned how to arrange for the brass quintet. I did a great deal of coaching and teaching and was a member of the faculty at Boston University and the Royal Academy of Music in London. I spent summers at Tanglewood coaching quintets at the Empire Brass Seminar.

I was part of an ensemble that had to create in order to survive. We had to come up with the arrangements, CDs, management, teaching, and concerts in order to stay alive in the market. This is very different from the orchestra job I hold now, where I have little freedom to create as a performer. I can’t decide on the programs we play or the CDs this orchestra makes and at times I miss that creative freedom that I had with the EBQ. That creative freedom, however, comes at a price. A lot of hard work, stress and, at times, conflict.


8. What are your other favorite projects?

These days, my latest passion outside of playing the trumpet is cartooning. My goal is to get a cartoon published in the New Yorker. With a 99.99%
rejection rate, that makes it almost as bad as the music business, but the cartoons give me something to think about while I’m counting all those measures rest.

Canadian Brass, Windsync, Boston Brass, Mnozil Brass, Spanish Brass, Dallas Brass, Seraph, Atlantic Brass Quintet

c. 2015 David William Brubeck. All Rights Reserved. www.davidbrubeck.com

Images Courtesy of Jeffrey Curnow.

Cartoons c. Jeffrey Curnow. All Rights Reserved.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

The Axiom Brass Visit “FIVE!”tm1423513915221

Inspired by String Quartets and Brass Quintets; Juilliard and Northwestern; The United States and Brazil; transcriptions and original compositions-Axiom Brass is able to hold each dichotomy firmly, while fluidly exploring the joys of ambiguity. “FIVE!”tm finds the beauty in carefully crafting a the future of brass with Axiom. Enjoy!

What led you to arranging for brass? What have been your most rewarding transcriptions and why?

The repertoire for Brass Quintet is somewhat limited, so transcriptions and arrangements are an almost inevitable path when building repertoire. Interestingly, transcriptions have been popular throughout history, at times even with the composer himself re-transcribing an earlier work for different instrumentation.

1423504796115My transcriptions were in part born out of a necessity to have music that was written to best capture Axiom’s musical vision. I don’t really think of them as arrangements or transcriptions, I envision them more as translations. The idea is similar to translating a poem from a different language. The poem cannot simply be translated, it must be re-imagined so to keep the original beauty and essence that it possessed in the original language. Axiom offers me the perfect environment to experiment with these translations. First, because I can write with a specific musician in mind and not just an instrument. Secondly, because I can try things out in rehearsals and take my time reworking sections until they sound the way I imagined them.

I mostly rework string quartets, early music and Latin music for brass quintet. I guess some of the Latin music has become very popular in our concerts. I have enjoyed doing all of them, but I would say my favorite composer to translate is Astor Piazzolla, both for the challenge that it presents and for the reactions we get from our audiences.

What differences have you noted in the approaches to playing brass instruments by musicians from Brazil and The United States?
I think the main difference from my experience in Brazil versus my experience here in the States is the foundation of the music making process.

In Brazil, musical education is not as organized as it is here. Universities and conservatories don’t have the same structure and planning as we see here. That is not necessarily a bad quality since the result is that musicians in South America tend to be more intuitive and less technique oriented. Music becomes the driving force behind technique and not the other way around.

On the other hand, a deep understanding of the instrument and the music is crucial to a great performance. I think a balance between the two is ideal. I think in Brazil the students would benefit a lot from the structure we have here. I also think that we could use a little more of that natural instinct and rawness in our music making over here in the US.

How did the group come together?
Axiom was created as a way to continue some of the quintet experiences I had at Juilliard as a student in the American Brass Quintet seminar and as part of a fellowship brass quintet for one Juilliard’s community outreach programs. While in New York I had a lot of opportunities to perform chamber music at elementary schools, retirement homes, hospitals and rehab centers. These opportunities gave me a valuable insight into the power of chamber music. Once I left school, I quickly realized that chamber music was my passion and what I wanted to do professionally. It was a matter of time until I could put together the group again. Initially, we still had some of the same people from our school days but eventually, the travel demands and other life events made it impossible for some of the members to continue. Since at that point I was living in Chicago, it was an obvious choice to look for replacement members based in Chicago.

What has a Tanglewood residence meant to Axiom? What are some of your favorite memories?
Axiom puts education at the forefront of our mission, and there is no better place to do so than at the Boston University Tanglewood Institute. At BUTI we have the privilege to work with some of our nation’s most promising young artists. We have the opportunity to share with these young minds the possibilities that the future holds. We have a chance to inspire these students to pursue a career in chamber music.

I could keep on going, but at the end of the day, it really is not so much what we do for the students but what they do for us. Every summer at Tanglewood I am recharged for the year ahead. The students and the environment inspire me to continue furthering my craft. I guess Tanglewood keeps us young as an ensemble.

We have had many incredible moments at Tanglewood in the past few years, but if I had to pick one, I would say it was the Wind Ensemble final concert in 2014. I was completely floored by their performance. The program was the most challenging one I had heard that ensemble prepare. The final performance possessed a level of excitement and emotional maturity that was electrifying. I could not believe how a group of high school musicians could take me in such an emotional roller-coaster. They performed with a level of fearlessness and adventure that is often lost in professional concerts.


Which brass groups have inspired you and how?
American Brass for their bold approach to repertoire and incredible ensemble blend. Art of Brass Vienna for their ensemble tightness and warm sound. Center City Brass Quintet for their energetic style and dynamic spectrum.

Non brass groups?

Juilliard, Emerson and Pacifica string quartets for their musicianship and ensemble concept. They all exhibit a incredibly high level of execution and consistency without compromising their ensemble musical vision.
I find it fascinating to see how much their performances of the same repertoire can vary so drastically and yet never fail to deliver the music. I feel in brass chamber music we are still too bound to sounding like someone else instead of finding our own interpretation and identity.

I am also a fan of Kronos and Eight Blackbird for their musicianship, eclecticism and adventurous programing.

1423504970145What draws you to chamber music as your first musical priority?

As a tuba player, I am always eager to take on challenges beyond the typical band and orchestra repertoire. In brass quintet, there has to be a balance of soloistic playing while participating as a team member of the ensemble. To me, this is the most sophisticated type of music making – one that involves such a demanding musical role while reacting, processing, and conversing with 4 other musicians to create an artistic product.

Chamber music also lends itself to a more expressive and varied type of repertoire. With brass quintet being a relatively new genre of chamber music, there are so many directions we can go. From arrangements and transcriptions of early music to commissions of new pieces, there is an infinite array of styles from which to draw. Being one of five members of a chamber ensemble, I have an important role in rehearsals, performances, and in the artistic vision of the group. I much prefer this to simply performing music that has been chosen for me by a programming
committee and performing that music the way the conductor wants. In a chamber group, I have true musical responsibility.

Finally, I have traveled more with Axiom Brass in the past 6 years than I have ever before. Working with a small ensemble allows us to see the world, share our music with communities that would otherwise not be able to experience Classical music, and perform in venues that would normally be off limits to larger ensembles. In that way, we can share music with and experience different cultures through the art of music making.

What have been the most surprising musical discoveries you have encountered performing the varied literature of Axiom?

I am constantly surprised at what Axiom has been able to achieve. I have the honor of working with 4 amazing musicians and genuinely great friends. This relationship, coupled with a fearless musical approach, has lead to some very magical moments for me. All of my colleagues are musically bold, and I am inspired by them everyday.

With Axiom, I have learned that there is a much wider range of expression for brass instruments. We do not often think of ourselves as a brass quintet – instead, we model ourselves after piano trios and string quartets. This simple approach has been a huge proponent in shaping our concept of ensemble sound. We have been able to achieve greater warmth and a more vocal approach to repertoire of all styles and genres. One of my favorite examples of this is an arrangement of the Mendelssohn String Quartet No. 1 as envisioned by our trumpeter, Dorival Puccini. This fantastic arrangement draws very closely from the original piece for string quartet which challenges us to find new ways of musical expression on brass instruments. Although we have never performed the piece in its entirety, it has been a wonderful study for us over the years. I am happy to say that we will be resurrecting the piece for our upcoming 2015-2016 season.

It seems extraordinarily well organized and broad-is it difficult to keep under your fingers?
There are many different directions we can take our repertoire, but before we program any piece of music we first ask ourselves “does this piece fit with the vision of Axiom Brass?” In other words, is this work meaningful to us, to brass music, and to the chamber music community as a whole? We only perform music we are deeply passionate about regardless of whether it is early music, original brass quintet, or Latin music. We want to share music we care about. With that approach, we can connect more closely with audiences thereby creating a better concert experience.
Choosing the right repertoire is a long process involving reading sessions, working closely with composers, creating our own arrangements, listening to recordings and doing a lot of background research. But through all of this we grow as musicians. It has been quite a rewarding experience!

Which brass groups have inspired you and how?
American Brass Quintet for paving the way for serious brass chamber music and for their beauty of style and interpretation. Art of Brass Vienna for their warm, buttery approach to brass sound. Center City Brass Quintet for their incredibly tight ensemble and expansive dynamic range.
Non brass groups?
Emerson String Quartet – their reputation speaks for itself. To me, this is the epitome of serious chamber music. Kronos Quartet for their bold programming and musical production. Peter Philips & The Tallis Scholars for their angelic sound in vocal Renaissance music.

What are the main attributes of trumpet playing that were imparted to you by each of your trumpet teachers?

I have been very fortunate to learn from some of the best trumpet teachers and musicians around and am definitely the better for it! I would really stress the word musician before trumpet teacher. Sure, there are just some technical and strategical things that you have to know about the instrument, but the best teachers, I believe, are great musicians that can show you how to transcend the difficulties of the instrument.
Just by sheer luck, I think I got a great start to the trumpet with no teacher at all. No, I’m not being sarcastic. Sure, it would have been great to start off in 5th grade with a high caliber teacher, but I also didn’t come away with a lot of baggage from a sub par instructor. In lieu of lessons, I spent a lot of time by myself in the backyard, trying to figure it out…with my ear. At the time, I couldn’t read music and learned to play by listening and mimicking. Now that I know about the Suzuki Method for strings, I think I got a poor-man’s, lonelier version of that for trumpet. I didn’t have a lot of hang-ups because I wasn’t trying to learn how to read music before speaking the language, just like when babies try and sound out words when they learn to speak. I learned to make a sound and didn’t realize some things are “difficult” on trumpet before I then learned how to read sheet music.

I did eventually get some lessons my senior year of high school and I went to a magnet school called the Fine Arts Center in Greenville, SC in the 1423505163328same year. There I learned how to multiple tongue and was introduced some of the standard repertoire. It was an incredible and very unique place that helped me prepare for the Navy Band program. The Navy was a great teacher in its own right and taught me “how to” and “how not to” do things. You learn to prepare for a concert pretty quickly and how to get performance ready in a short amount of time. Compared to a college band or orchestra that allows for about 6 weeks (or more) to prepare for a concert, the military bands taught me to get performance ready in much less time than that – days or even an afternoon. However, some of the college groups that I’ve been in put that extra level of polish at the end that the military bands couldn’t or didn’t have an interest in doing. There was always a sense that it was “good enough” and “why bother doing more if I’m paid the same” mentality that can be pretty soul-crushing.

Dr. Christopher Moore at Florida State University was my first real trumpet teacher and I owe him a great debt. I really got my butt kicked in terms of fundamentals and general trumpet sound quality. With him, I had my first foray into the vast trumpet repertoire and learned how to truly practice. I had lots of performance experience in the Navy, but didn’t know how to effectively practice. I really learned how to organize my practice routine at FSU. If it hadn’t been for the things I learned from Dr. Moore, I never would have achieved the level of playing I have today, and I don’t think I ever could have gotten into a program like Northwestern.

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

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

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

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

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

How do drum corps experiences influence your approach to the instrument and music in general?
Drum Corps is a valuable outlet for good practice and performance techniques for students that wouldn’t otherwise have access to them. Because drum corps are found in almost every part of America the fundamental techniques they promote are accessible even to people who are unable to regularly hear a major orchestra or band. Also, for young players, it sets a regimented practice schedule and forces them to incorporate routine in their practice habits. Drum corps transformed me from a weak, young high school trumpet kid into a serious player over the course of a summer. It is a valuable formative experience.

Recently, as a teacher, I’ve seen more and more corps adopt techniques that used to be just reserved for serious classical players, like the Chicowicz “Flow Studies” or buzzing, for example. It is also now common knowledge that a major 3rd is tempered down 14 cents for Just
intonation. (NB: Mr. Geyer told me he wasn’t aware of this until he was 35 years old playing with the CSO!) It’s great that young players are already equipped with this knowledge.

However, I’ve often noticed that these techniques are being blindly used without understanding what is being achieved. The Flow Studies are an egregious example implemented from brass staffs that have 3rd- or 4th-hand knowledge from its creator Vincent Chicowicz. I’ve also noticed a trend from the band community of brass sound and blend that virtually eliminates the color and excitement from brass playing. Their desire for blend and homogeneity of sound has unfortunately resulted in a boring and uninspired music in my opinion. Sometimes getting a better tone means making an ugly sound and then refining it.

Still, it’s wonderful and inspiring that the students are exposed to such high-level concepts.

Can you describe the Civic Orchestra experience?
My two years with the Civic Orchestra was one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences in my life. Rehearsing and performing in the Symphony Center was intimidating at first but really shaped my playing and my ear. It’s not an easy space for brass to play in, and I developed a deeper understanding of the “Chicago” brass sound.

I really liked working with Cliff Colnot, he was a great personality to be around. He really pushed musicians beyond their comfort zones with very frank and practical language. Although he was hard on some of us, I think he understood what it took to turn students into professionals. He was able to put a level of polish on the ensemble in a short amount of time because he organized sectional rehearsals even before we rehearsed as a full ensemble. Also, Dr. Colnot really emphasized the importance of score study, and many copies of the score where available at every rehearsal. It seems like in many youth ensembles in this country, the score is treated like a “Teacher’s Edition;” it’s seen as off-limits or cheating for the students to consult it.

It was also great to get to know and learn from my colleagues in Civic. In graduate programs students tend to isolate themselves in their studio, and in Civic I had the opportunity to interact with lots of young professionals.
Which brass groups have inspired you and how?

There are so many quality groups and I would say that a few that directly influence me are: the American Brass Quintet, the Center City Brass Quintet, the Meridian Arts Brass Quintet, and the Stockholm Chamber Brass. In grade school I was also heavily influenced by the Empire Brass Quintet and Rolf Smedvig as the first quintet that I was introduced to (On the day of this writing I am saddened by the news of Mr. Smedvig’s passing. He was an incredible trumpet player and we all owe him a great debt in the trumpet and brass quintet community). I think these groups are continuously propelling the art form and helping legitimizing brass quintet as a respectable chamber music group. At Axiom Brass we are always thinking about how we can continue to bring chamber brass music to the next level.
Non brass groups?

Living in Chicago we are very lucky to have other quality chamber groups around to inspire us: Eighth Blackbird, 5th House, Third Coast Percussion, and Ensemble Del Niente for example. In a lot of ways, I think that chamber music is the future of classical music. Not only can we be more versatile than an orchestra, but with our more portable size I think we can reach a wider audience. I’m inspired by these successful groups that are reaching audiences, making people think, commissioning new music, and expanding the viability of chamber music.

How do you conceive of embouchure in different ranges?

I feel that the embouchure must reflect the range being played in order for the sound to have the maximum tone and color. There are certain fundamentals that must always be in place for a healthy embouchure. For example, there must be an even level of engagement of the corners on both sides of the mouth. I find that I can keep tabs on this by double checking in a mirror from time to time while practicing. In general, however, I think less about the structure of my embouchure and more about my air stream when I play between different ranges. Using an “Ah” or “Oh” syllable for the low and mid range air allows for the air stream to be relaxed yet focused.

When transitioning to the upper register, a syllable similar to “Ee” should be used. Using these different syllables has the effect of changing the focus and speed of the air which will allow for a rich, healthy sound in all registers. It is important to note that the air should always be moving the same regardless of the register. Don’t try to blow more air in the upper register, instead think about letting the change in syllable accelerate the air. This will allow the embouchure to stay relaxed, with minimal mouthpiece pressure, and promote good habits of air use.

Do you pivot or strive for essentially one embouchure?
I try to think of having only one embouchure, with small adjustments in the mouthpiece’s position for each note, to make it speak as easily as possible. Doing this facilitates transitions between registers easily and quickly, regardless of slurring or articulating. There are very rare occasions where I need to do a pivot in a more extreme sense, generally involving notes that are in the pedal register and very loud dynamics. In general, however, I want to keep everything smooth with the conscious concept of sound driving the placement of each note.

1423505342211What do draw on from your background as a mid-westerner that informs your music?
The Midwest has helped me to appreciate the calmness and natural breathing that is in music.

Though Chicago is in the Midwest, it is certainly much more busy than Minnesota, where I grew up. That spacious environment has helped me understand how to accentuate the beauty of a slow phrase or a simple melody. Some of my favorite passages to play are incredibly quiet and lyrical. Although I certainly enjoy playing loudly too, my Midwestern mentality helps me fill my quiet dynamics with energy and character.

Which brass groups have inspired you and how?
Chicago Chamber Music brass, The Metropolitan Opera Brass, Art of Brass Vienna, American Brass. All of these ensembles have amazing concepts of sound and artistry. All of the players play with a unified vision of the music they want to convey. In addition, I was influenced as a trombone player by the Four of a Kind trombone quartet. I first heard their album at a relatively early age and it raised the bar for what trombone playing was to me at that time.

Non brass groups?

I like to listen to cellists and vocalists. Musicians such as Rostropovich or Quasthoff are able to evoke emotions in their music through phrasing that trombone players strive to achieve, especially in the repertoire we borrow from cellists and singers. Studying the shapes of the music of non brass musicians leads to important decisions on diction, intensity, and breathing in a musical way.

Which quintet horn players have you strived to emulate, and how would describe their approach to the 3-spot in the quintet?

There has been no shortage of great quintet horn players to draw inspiration from over the years! The ones I’ve tried to emulate the most include Eric Ruske (Empire Brass), David Wakefield (American Brass Quintet), Jeff Nelsen (Canadian Brass), Seth Orgel (Atlantic Brass Quintet), and Richard King (Center City Brass). There are many other outstanding players out there; these are just some of the most-recorded players and groups.

Although each of these horn players were members of a different quintet, with different concepts of sound and performance style, a common characteristic they all share is their approach to fulfilling the 3- spot in the ensemble. In my own experience, this is such a crucial aspect of not just good brass quintet musicianship, but of good chamber music in general. We must always be sensitive to our role in the texture of the group’s sound.

I think all of the great brass quintet horn players would agree that we can draw a great deal of inspiration from the example of the string quartet. There is such a rich history of music and tradition surrounding string quartet, while brass quintet is really quite young by comparison. One of the most admirable qualities of great string quartets is the unity of sound they achieve. As we strive to emulate this quality in brass chamber music, I think a comparison can be made between the role that the viola and the horn each play in their respective groups.
In the string quartet, the viola plays a crucial role as a sort of mediator between the upper voices of the violins and the lower voice of the cello. It acts as “glue” that unifies the group sound. In the same way, the horn fulfills this this role in the brass quintet, connecting the upper range of the trumpets’ sounds with the low range of the trombone and the tuba. It is essential for the horn player to be sensitive of this role if they are going to adequately assume the 3-spot in the ensemble. As I have grown up listening to recordings of the great brass quintets mentioned earlier, I’ve realized that each group had a horn player who was incredibly skilled in this way.

One might ask what this approach looks like practically. To that, I would say that the horn player should develop a horn sound that is almost “chameleon-like”, blending impeccably with the trumpets at times but in other moments shifting to a color that can blend with a tuba. The beauty of a brass quintet’s organ-like sound can only be achieved with this sort of skill blending colors (this is really something that every member of the group must be conscious of). A horn player can learn to make these small adjustments in the color of their sound, by altering their hand position, the size of the oral cavity, and the speed and size of the air column. Flexibility is also very important. Over the years, I’ve drawn much of my inspiration from each of the players I mentioned earlier, and I’ve felt that their example has really helped my understanding of how to approach playing horn in brass quintet.

What does it mean to you to have had such a close experience with the “Chicago Sound” of horn playing?
The Chicago horn sound has been a major influence in my approach to playing the horn. As a student growing up in south Florida, I listened to recordings constantly – American orchestras, European orchestras, chamber music, soloists, whatever I could l get my hands on. Over time, I found myself developing a strong preference for the Chicago sound of horn playing. I made up my mind that if I ever got a chance to move somewhere else, it would be Chicago, or another city with as similar school of playing.

As it turned out, I was very fortunate to have the privilege of studying at Northwestern University for two years, with Gail Williams and Jonathan Boen. Looking back, I recall how, in most of my lessons with each of my teachers, we focused primarily on sound quality! And if that wasn’t enough inspiration, there were the countless
opportunities to hear concerts at the CSO, Lyric Opera, Ravinia, and Grant Park. So, considering all of that, I think that the Chicago sound has become a big part of my identity as a musician and horn player.

How do you balance the twin approaches of low horn and high horn regarding embouchure?
This is a very practical question, with applications to all horn players. There once was a time when a horn player could consider themselves a “specialist” in either low horn or high horn. Those days are mostly gone. With all of the developments we’ve seen in pedagogy, instrument design, and especially musical demands, it has become essential for every horn player to strive to be proficient in the full range of the horn. Most players will still have one range they feel more naturally comfortable in, but in general, we all seek to have a command of the full range. And this has always been especially true for the brass quintet horn player. Brass quintet repertoire is notorious for horn parts that utilize the horn’s entire range. It requires nimbleness, agility and flexibility from the horn player, in all aspects but particularly with regards to range. And the embouchure is so crucial to meeting those musical demands.

Personally, I have found that I needed to condition my embouchure to suit this type of playing, and I have had to cater my approach to daily practicing in order to meet those needs. This is quite different from the approach one would take to the orchestral audition scenario. In those situations, a horn player will often find themselves needing to structure their practicing to meet the needs of the excerpts they are preparing, for example strengthening their low range for a fourth horn position, or their high range for a principle position. In these scenarios, the player may find themselves neglecting one range of their playing as they condition their embouchure to be especially proficient in the range demanded by the job.

The best approach to daily practice for the brass quintet horn player, and the approach I’ve found necessary for my own needs, is one that trains 1423762401752the embouchure to be comfortable moving freely throughout the full range of the horn. There is a virtuosity that must be sought after. In my practicing, I focus heavily on exercises based on the harmonic series, moving quickly from low to high, so that my embouchure gets used to the feeling of totally flexibility. Etudes are also very helpful for training the embouchure to be agile. It’s easy for a horn player to develop a low “set” or a high “set” in their embouchure, which may give them a strength and security to play notes in that particular range. However, they must be careful that this setting does not get them stuck or hamper their ability to still be agile in their playing. Again, virtuosity is the key. Many pieces in the repertoire require the horn player to move very quickly through the range of the horn and this is not easy to do with a good core sound unless the embouchure has been carefully conditioned for that kind of movement.

Which brass groups have inspired you and how? Non brass groups?
I’ve been inspired by a number of different brass groups, and not always just quintets. The Summit Brass and the German Brass are both larger ensembles that I really enjoy listening to. The virtuosity of their playing, the evenness of their sounds and the incredible blend that they achieve have all been very inspiring to me as a horn player. Some of my favorite quintets include the American Brass Quintet, the Atlantic Brass Quintet, Center City Brass, Art of Brass Vienna, and the Empire Brass, just to name a few. The same qualities mentioned before apply to these groups. I appreciate the beauty and the unity of the sound each of these quintets achieve, their impeccable balance, blend, rhythm, and intonation. And I also think it’s a joy to hear how different groups interpret the standards in the repertoire, and to draw inspiration from that while playing in Axiom.

Aside from brass groups, I enjoy listening to string quartets and wind quintets as well. String quartets are especially admirable for their incredible precision and attention to every minute detail in the music. We brass players can learn so much from their example!

On the other hand, wind quintets exemplify a lightness in their playing that also really inspires me. And as a horn player, I always admire hearing the horn blend so well with the woodwind instruments. I try to have that same sense of blend in my brass quintet playing.

Inmterested in more “FIVE!” Interviews?
Canadian Brass, Windsync, Boston Brass, Mnozil Brass, Spanish Brass, Dallas Brass, Seraph, Atlantic Brass Quintet

c. 2015 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved. www.davidbrubeck.com

Images courtesy of Axiom Brass

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Adam Frey Travels The World & Brings It Back To Atlanta…..

“Hands-On”! That is how euphonium virtuoso Adam Frey describes the ideal for the International Euphonium and Tuba Festival to be held June 21-27, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia. The participants eat all of their meals together, and attend all of the presentations together-since only one presentation is offered at a time. Access to guest artists is close up as well, with each artist presenting a recital performance in addition to working with students in masterclasses, warm up sessions, and coachings.

A native of Atlanta, Adam brings the IET Festival to his home town after pursuing his passion for great music played on the euphonium around the globe. One can get a sense of his travels from the faculty and participants at the festival, and Frey’s international appeal serves to attract both from all over the world. “The Fourth Valve” tm is delighted to present International Euphonium Virtuoso Adam Frey as the next respondent of our interview series. Enjoy!

bio_151. How did the International Euphonium and Tuba Festival come about, and in what ways have you strove to make it a unique experience amongst the various conferences? The event started in 2004 with 14 participants. I wanted to make something special for tuba and euphonium that combined high level performances like International Tuba and Euphonium Conference, but also offered a great opportunity for students to work closely with professionals. Lastly, I wanted to give participants the chance to PLAY! Participants can have as many as 11 performance opportunities between the ensemble concerts, participant recitals, master classes, lessons, and solo competition. I think the massive staff of teachers and their desire to connect with the participants makes it a special experience.

2. What was it like to perform as a soloist with the Boston Pops?
This was one of the most impressive experiences of my life. Playing 3 concerts to a packed house each night and receiving standing ovations and cheers was pretty incredible and memorable. I think the quality of the ensemble was outstanding as well as the energy of the audience and the acoustic of Symphony Hall combine to make it a concert experience where you can really achieve a pinnacle of your performance abilities. I practiced insanely hard for the concerts and to prepare mentally and those experiences and techniques still remain with me today.

3. What piqued your interest in commissioning new works? Any favorite stories working with composers?
The euphonium is young, let’s face it. So helping to generate new music has become a passion of mine. When you have the opportunity to develop and break ground on new projects, there is an incredible sense of ownership. Hopefully, we can introduce the euphonium to as many composers as possible and, in turn, they might enhance euphonium parts in their future compositions. In this way, we can create a great sense of momentum for the instrument.

Allen Feinstein’s concerto was very memorable! We spent a lot of time talking and then all of a sudden the 1st movement showed up and it was incredibly difficult. I told him the rest of the piece can’t be this crazy. So he adjusted the demands, but it was a great opportunity to be creative. I was also able to make a few recommendations like having the euphonium on a counter melody in certain spots and to use a mute for a color change.

4. Why is the euphonium a more popular timbre choice than baritone or valve trombone, and do you see any need for euphonium players to embrace these tone colors and traditions?
I believe the euphonium is more popular because the sound has a greater timbrel contrast from the trombone. The baritone and valve trombone are, of course, somewhat different as well, but the euphonium has the most distinct tonal palette. As an arranger, I think that greater contrast offers more colors and opportunities. The euphonium provides a broader range spectrum (top to bottom) and lastly, I feel as though the sound is broader and a little less direct.

5. What do you think of when you think of Leonard B. Falcone, and what did he mean to the instrument?
I think of someone that pushed the limits and was a major ambassador for the instrument. Incredible tonging and flair with a strong tradition of education. He was certainly one of the best proponents of the instrument in the US and made a large impact of school band education.

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

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

7. What differences have you noted in teaching and playing styles between the US, Switzerland and Korea? home_15
I think everyone is going for the same thing in regards to teaching, namely: a good physical setup, a quality tone, an efficient use of air, a reduced use of muscle tension, and that creative spark.

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

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

8. Who are your musical heroes?
Steven Mead as an inspiration to aspire towards a career as a soloist and be charismatic; Brian Bowman for sound and character; Art Lehman for virtuosity and ease; Jaqueline de Pre for her intensity and passion; David Randolph
(my teacher) as an incredibly sensitive chamber musician and champion of new music; James Gourlay for his wit, insights, and playing; Patrick Sheridan for showmanship and flair! There are more….

Malcolm Gladwell as a motivator and de-constructor of success; my dad, Steve Frey, for his incredible work ethic and “can-do attitude”; Jack Welch and Bill Gates as leaders in the business world that stuck with their visions and made them happen.

9. What are your thoughts on the euphonium in chamber music, is tuba quartet enough?
No, we need to explore as many options as possible. I try to work chamber music into as many programs as possible. Soloist with brass quintet, duets with saxophone or trumpet, brass ensemble. We need more.

I also think greater explorations in jazz would be very helpful. This is a great medium that I want to play more of, but just don’t have the time to really craft my skills. I am still hoping though….

Listen to Adam perform excerpts from his CD recordings…
c. 2015 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved. www.davidbrubeck.com

Images Courtesy of euphonium.com

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

“FIVE!” tm Survives ‘Stylistic Whiplash’ With The Mirari Brass, And Begs For More Cowbell!photo

Mirari Brass doesn’t necessarily want you comfortable in their concerts! Expect the unexpected, as the terrain could vary from music of the Renaissance to Mingus and back to Bozza! Comfortable in their own skins, Mirari embraces the opportunities of 21st century mediums, and is winning a special connection with their millennial peers. As the buzz for this fresh new group grows, “FIVE!” charts the new millennium with The Mirari Brass.

MBQ_2014_17_600px1. The spirit that infuses and inspires your work seems fresh. How did the five friends of Mirari meet? And how did you forge your purpose, was there an event or experience that made you think, “Why doesn’t anyone do it this way?”
The original members met playing at Indiana University together. New members, Matt and Stephanie, have been added not only because of their musical abilities but also due to their awesome personalities.

The group is spread out all over the country. When new members have been added, it’s not based on location but instead of who will fit best with the rest of the group.

One of the main missions of the group is education. All five members are college professors who love to teach. At the same time, we don’t want to lose the other big part of being a musician, performing. Finding a group of people that get’s along really well and shares an artistic vision is a rarity, and in the end is more important than all of us living in the same place.

2. At times you need a French horn, and sometimes it is just about ‘more cowbell’! Please talk about integrating percussion into your arrangements as played by the members themselves. It certainly adds a lot of color.
Some genres of music need a non-brass element to communicate time and style. We take pride that we can provide that element from within the group itself.

In addition to adding percussion we also have pieces that include piano and singing, which showcases other members additional talents.

3. How were you selected to perform at the 2015 ITG, and what does it mean to you?

We knew a guy, but seriously…. ITG was really interested due to our emphasis on new music and commissions. In addition our 2014 at the International Tuba Euphonium Conference created a positive buzz which eventually made its way to the ITG coordinators. As college professors we encouraged to perform and connect with other musicians across the country.

Performing at ITG will give us a chance to broaden those connections with students and other professionals. We’re excited to share our music with our colleagues. This will hopefully encourage other musicians to perform some of the works we are showcasing.

4. Your website is a thing of beauty. Can you discuss the challenges and opportunities of managing bookings, websites, and recordings for a young brass quintet in the millennial age?
In some ways it’s actually easier.

Because there are so many social mediums and opportunities that reach a huge demographic of people, we can easily show and represent who we are as performers, teachers, and people!

We can easily share all of the fun things we are up to through Facebook and twitter as well as highlighting our professional side on our website and through our agent’s website, too. It’s great to our fans to be able to get to know who we are as people. It creates stronger connections:)

We started out booking all of our own gigs, and though we are well connected in the music business we did have to do a good deal of cold calling and reaching out. Figuring out that process was initially a challenge. Starting and maintaining connections with presenters is also a challenge, but fortunately we now have help with that from our management company, Ariel Artists.

Our first recording took a few years to finish due to how spread out we all were. We did a ‘Kickstarter’ campaign to raise funds for our second CD (recording in May, just before ITG), which will allow us to record all of the music in a 4-day span at a great hall in Logan, Utah.

5. Who are your brass Quintet/ensemble inspirations? Mnozil Brass, German Brass, Center City Brass Quintet, American Brass Quintet, Meridian Arts Ensemble.

We look to a wide variety of genres for inspiration outside of the brass genre. Jessie loves musical theatre, so that’s a huge inspiration for her. Alex is also a great jazz performer and teacher, so that’s a big inspiration for him as well. Specifically though, Stevie Wonder, Chicago, Charles Mingus, Thad Jones…

6. Do any of your members sing, and/or do you anticipate collaborations with vocalists?
Yes, our horn player Jessie also sings. We don’t have any collaborations with vocalists in the works right now, but are always open to new collaborations. Recently we started talking with some of the other Ariel Artists about potential group projects.

7. Programming seems vital to your ensemble. You seem to like to mix it up? How wide does this philosophy range in style, and how does it affect the performers and the audience?
We’ve coined the term “stylistic whiplash” to describe our programs. Meaning we play works from the Renaissance, to Classical, to Romantic, to jazz, throwing the audience between styles rapidly. We do like to mix it up, audiences have access to and enjoy all different types of music.

As a result we think it’s important to offer music from a wide variety of genres to serve a larger demographic. This keeps us continually changing the way we approach the group sound and style, molding our sound to fit each new period or genre, forcing us to be versatile performers. In addition it keeps the audience engaged and on their toes.

8. Do you find yourselves drawn to any particular places or times?
Anywhere we can make music together is fine with us:)


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

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

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

Canadian Brass, Windsync, Boston Brass, Mnozil Brass, Spanish Brass, Dallas Brass, Seraph, Atlantic Brass Quintet

c. 2015 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved www.davidwilliambrubeck.com

Images courtesy of Ariel Artists and YouTube


“Goodbye Porkpie Hat”
Charles Mingus arranged by Alex Noppe

Canyon Run
by Alex Noppe

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

George Curran Checks “Seven Positions” tm Off His List…

Switch from euphonium to bass trombone as a senior in college-(check). Win New York Philharmonic position-(check). Start a trombone festival and pick up up Atlanta Symphony chair-(check, check), concertos, quartets & CDs (check, check, & check). “Seven Positions” tm catches up with Gotham’s newest bass trombone ace to see what is next on his list!

New York Philharmonic1. Describe your first concerto experience to your most recent one. What did you experience, and how did your approach change? How special was the Gillingham?
I remember my first concerto experience vividly. I had recently switched to bass trombone from euphonium and entered the concerto competition at Central Michigan University. Somehow, I was one of the winners, and performed the Ritter George Concerto from memory. That was really difficult, since I had basically no arm muscle memory to draw upon. It was a deer-in-headlights performance, but it went well and the experience accelerated my growth.

At CCM I performed the Ewazen Concerto with their Concert Orchestra, and though I don’t prefer being a soloist, as an orchestral trombonist I believe that it is so important pedagogically to do additional playing. It makes the job so much easier to do. My next big solo performance was a few years later playing the Bourgeois Concerto at ETW with the Army Band. Playing in front of all of those great players – with Charlie Vernon and Eric Ewazen in the front row – was really special. By this point I did a lot more score study and tried to bring my own voice to a piece in a mature way.

Most recently, I premiered the Gillingham concerto at my alma mater, which for me was one of the most special experiences I have had professionally. It is truly one of the best pieces in our repertoire, and with its global warming subject I feel like I am helping to communicate in a different way than I usually do from the back row.

2. What is your concept of an ideal bass trombone sound?

This is such an important question. Most young players aren’t able to articulate in words the kind of characteristics in a great sound. For most of us, words like warm, dark, and rich come to mind. To me, that is too vague to be of much help, even though those words all point in the right direction.

My approach changes with the music. Though I want consistent tone production, I may look for a sound that is haunting and mysterious, or sweet and innocent, or strong and masculine. Each phrase has meaning, and it is our job to project or communicate that to the audience, even if the audience is just a practice room.

3. You approached the slide first as an adult by switching from euphonium to bass trombone in your senior year of college. How did the gross motion of the slide (in contrast to the fine muscle movement of the valves), impact your air, articulation, and technical facility?

And, I’m left handed!

You hit it on the head with the with the word “gross”. I had to turn off my tuner for a year, because I couldn’t do things like go from first to fourth position consistently enough to make it worth using. One of the things that helped me was that I didn’t have too many bad habits, so I could approach my technique freshly. I did a lot of scales while glissing, which helped me to separate my arm and air. I try to get my slide articulation to match a perfect lip or valve slur.

Too many of us have legato tongues that are so soft that the notes don’t match natural and valve slurs. None of the other brass instruments use a glissy legato and they generally think trombonists sound sloppy when using it. Consistency of articulation is so important, especially when you have only a five-minute audition to demonstrate your skills to a committee consisting primarily of non-trombonists.

4. Describe what the ASO and the Atlanta musical scene meant to you.
When I called my wife after winning the ASO audition, I told her that I had done more with my career in that day than I thought I would do in my whole career. Winning a job in a big league orchestra was never an expectation of mine. I was a euphonium player until I switched to bass when I was 22 years old. I had always liked the presence and power of a great trombone section, and decided to see if I could get into grad school on trombone.

Later, when I got to Atlanta, Colin Williams, Bill Thomas (and eventually Nathan Zgonc) and I worked together with Brad Palmer to build the Southeast Trombone Symposium and release a CD together. The STS is still going strong and fills me with pride. It is a magnet for young students of course, but I was surprised at how much the STS was embraced by and has benefited the professional trombone community in the southeast. It is a great opportunity for professors, orchestral players, and freelancers to network and build relationships.

5. Name your inspirations, musical and non.GeorgeCurran
I grew up loving the NY Philharmonic and Chicago Symphony sections, and there are so many soloists to choose. Just a few include Joe Alessi, Jim Markey, Yo-Yo Ma, Jesse Norman, Pavarotti. But I also grew up listening to the visceral sound of heavy metal music, so I have to include Metallica, Tool, and Pantera.

Other inspirations include my family and scientists like Neal deGrasse Tyson, Stephen Hawking, and Carl Sagan. They are the philosophers of today, and they have found ways to make their abstract ideas understandable to laymen without dumbing them down-that is something that our orchestras could use as inspiration.

6. Do you use essentially one embouchure or pivot?
Most people that I have spoken with have some kind of a shift into the low pedal range and I also have one. It’s around pedal G or F#, depending on how loud I am playing. I consciously go over that shift each time I pass that line.

7. What is the best bass trombone playing you have ever heard?
Ever done?

For a long time I have been a huge fan of Charlie Vernon, Randy Hawes, and Jim Markey. All of those guys have really ‘soloistic’ approaches to the instrument, and you can hear that in their orchestral playing as well.

As for myself, I can clearly remember performances of Bruckner 8 with the ASO, Fountains and Pines my first week with the NYP, and parts of my recent Gillingham premiere as well.

8. Is there a current New York symphonic trombone sound or style? If so, how would you describe it?

Though I could say that the NY Philharmonic trombone section has its own sound, it is more important for us in the section to think of the brass section sound as a while.

One of the first things that David Finlayson said to me about the brass section here was that they have a very heroic sound, which is a great way to describe it. These guys swing for the fences on every note. We have a very thick and sustained approach to playing compared to many orchestras. This is partly a response to the immense size of Avery Fisher Hall and what the brass section has had to do to properly fill it.

9. What is the difference in playing in an excellent orchestra like ASO, and a top tier orchestra like the Phil. How do you hear differently from your chair?
I learned so much in Atlanta and remember many special concerts. The demands in both orchestras are very high, as you might imagine.

I suppose the two biggest differences are work load and consistency. The Philharmonic has at least one more service per week with as many as five subscription concerts on some weeks, and the season chugs along into August with only about five or six weeks off before hitting it hard again.

Regarding consistency, I suppose the orchestra is a bit more consistent from note to note, but we have the advantage of every concert feeling artistically important. In Atlanta, we had many pops concerts, children’s concerts, run outs, parks concerts, and a full month of holiday shows. The orchestra tended to lose its edge during those stretches, and I can’t blame them. Almost every Philharmonic concert is a serious event with a big conductor or soloist, a premiere, a tour, a recording for radio broadcast, or a hall filled with 2,500+ patrons. The consistency of having to have your best day every day is a real grind, but it makes us better players who are fully invested in our careers.

c. 2015 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved. www.davidbrubeck.com

Images courtesy of The New York Phil. and Greg Black Mouthpieces

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

“FIVE!” tm Links To Interviews With The World’s Greatest Quintets!images-2

FIVE! tm Is a new idea; a series devoted to woodwind and brass quintets. Chamber music may be the most essential form of instrumental expression, and is certainly the most complete iteration of instrumental music education. A successful chamber music performer must draw equally upon the skills of a soloist as well as those of an ensemble player, and all without a conductor. Plumb the experience of those expert professionals who have succeeded as players in the top Wind and Brass Quintets with “FIVE”, tm today!

Canadian Brass, Windsync, Boston Brass, Mnozil Brass, Spanish Brass, Dallas Brass, Seraph, Atlantic Brass Quintet

images-2FIVE! tm Hosts The Canadian Brass!
Since their founding in 1970, The Canadian Brass have been the greatest ambassadors for brass and one of the premiere chamber music groups in the world. Their refreshing approach to the brass quintet was that of virtuoso soloists. This, along … Continue reading

“FIVE!” tm No. 1 tm Launches with Windsync!
headshot2In the words of Windsync oboist Erin Tsai, “We are approachable and accessible to seasoned concert goers AND to those who have never heard classical music”. In a wind chamber music environment dominated by brass touring groups, Windsync has drawn from the best of those traditions, blended in their own unique and yet cohesive musical personalities and added dash of inspiration from the Imani Winds to fashion a compelling and mesmerizing chamber music ensemble. Breaking boundaries and blazing trails seems matter of course for the group, as they incorporate blocking, memorization, costumes and unusual spaces into their performances. “Five!” tm, is davidbrubeck.com’s celebration of chamber music quintets, and we are scintillated to sail our maiden voyage with the delightful and generous members of Windsync! Read more…

Press_Photo“FIVE!” tm Hosts Boston Brass, and Rip Van Winkle Wakes
Posted on September 16, 2014 by David Brubeck
Mixing the traditions and styles of different generations, languages and musical backgrounds, the new Boston Brass has emerged a very different group than its predecessor. While the earlier edition of BB drew some influences from the dramatic and musical elements … Continue reading →

“FIVE!” tm-Mnozil Brass Reinvents Brass Concerts!images-2
Striking. Fresh. Bold. Innovative. Like the first recordings of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Brass Quintet, or the Initial engaging performances of the Canadian Brass, MNOZIL BRASS has set brass chamber music on its ear and changed the course of history. Born as a quintet in 1991 with friends from the university in a local bar named Mnozil, they added two members in 1996, and stage direction in 2001. THOMAS GANSCH, ROBERT ROTHER, ROMAN RINDBERGER, LEONHARD PAUL, GERHARD FÜSSL, ZOLTAN KISS, WILFRIED BRANDSTÖTTER-three trumpets, three tenor trombones and tuba, Thomas Gansch speaks for the group as “FIVE!”tm (ahem, plus TWO!), is delighted to welcome the revolutionary Mnozil Brass to our theatre- the curtain rises!
MnozilBrass_290111_0266-Bearbeitet1. “Applied Brass” is where the rubber hits the road. Please talk about your relationship with your audiences and how they may differ from those of traditional concert ensembles.
Music is the most direct art form. You get back what you give immediately, but the relationship between musician and audience is defined by the player. I, for example, am always looking for eye contact with audience members. It encourages me to see peoples’ reactions to our show. With a brass instrument, it´s just great fun to use the whole dynamic scale and watch the audience reactions to that. You can make them cry, cheer, cover their ears or dance in their seats-it´s like telling stories. The difference for classical audiences is that they never know what´s going to happen in our show, and I think they like that! Read more...

Spanish Brass 2
Spanish Brass Brings The Fire of Iberia to “FIVE!” tm
The Spanish Brass have plumbed the depths of standard brass literature for 25 years, adding choreography, innovative commissions and collaborations, and incorporating fresh jazz and bebop inspired arrangements. They present a formidable aural and visual experience that is exciting, fresh … Continue reading →

Dallas Brass cover“FIVE!” tm No. 2, Hosts the Dallas Brass!. Few, if any, chamber music ensembles have had more direct contact with student musicians than has Dallas Brass. Performing with and inspiring thousands each year, they have captured and distilled Americana and the musical traditions of our great nation and her bands. Founded in 1983, Dallas Brass initially infused ragtime and jazz rhythms into a line-up that would include a bass trombone (in place of the tuba), and a distinctive sixth member-percussion. They have embraced professional blocking, incorporated hand rhythms and produced grand musical gestures from Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” to “American In Paris”- all with the forces of six dedicated musicians. When combined with local musicians, the synergy of the Dallas Brass and their mission are an irresistible joy. davidbrubeck.com is ecstatic to present Dallas Brass as the second installment of our salute to chamber music, “FIVE!” tm. Read more…

Seraph+Brass-5-3567790189-OSeraph Alights Upon “FIVE!” tm
Posted on October 12, 2014 by David Brubeck
Seraph is new. Five young women, extraordinarily well-versed as musicians and artists with solid philosophical underpinnings and chemistry. Their perspectives and hopes are inspiring and their individual accomplishments make the sum total of Seraph beam with promise. davidbrubeck.com and “Five!” … Continue reading →

Betts Family, March 1, 2014,Bedford Ma
The Atlantic Brass Quintet is a remarkable group comprised of five multi-faceted and intriguing individuals.
8. The Atlantic Brass Quintet Fuses a 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 boo! Read more…

c. 2013-2015 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved. davidbrubeck.com

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

“THE FOURTH VALVE” tm, Tuba Style! Links to All of the Great Tuba Interviews from “The Fourth Valve” tm

The Fourth Valve tm is an up-close, shoot-from-the-hip interview series dedicated to musicians who play the tuba or euphonium. We at davidbrubeck.com are delighted and grateful to share the musical, professional and personal insights of some of the world’s great musicians and masters of low brass. The interview series was launched with an interview of Deanna Swoboda as a tribute to our first published article-an interview with Connie Weldon. For now, let’s just focus on tuba, and leave the fantastic euphoniums for another post. You wouldn’t believe how many terrific tuba interviews we have, so we’ll tell you: Craig Knox, Mike Roylance, Sergio Carolina, Beth Wiese, R. Winston Morris, Aaron Tindall, Aaron McCalla, Chitate Kagawa, Marty Erickson, Oystein Baadsvik, Don Harry, John Stevens, Jim Self, Beth Mitchell, John van Houten and Deanna Swoboda!Enjoy!

Craig Knox, Tuba www.davidbrubeck.com

Craig Knox, Tuba

Craig Knox of the Pittsburgh Symphony, Center City Brass Quintet and The Curtis Institute WOWS “The Fourth Valve” tm.
3. How do you conceive of articulation and explain it to your students? Do you adapt articulation from orchestral to chamber to solo situations?
I think of sound first, and articulation second. That is to say that I think a lot of beginning players rely too much on the tongue to start the note, sometimes resulting in a compressed burr of sound at the front of the note, followed by an unsupported tone. I also point out that a listener hearing a brass instrument has no expectation of hearing a “T” sound at the beginning of a note, any more than they would expect to hear that from a violin or timpani. What the listener wants to hear is a clarity and immediacy of tone at the beginning of the note.
Read more…

BSO Tubist Mike Roylance Braves “The Fourth Valve” tm, and the 2015 Blizzard! unnamed-1Many 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. Read more…

Sergio Carolina Grooves “The Fourth Valve”
Sergio Carolina was raised in the century old band traditions of Portugal and has developed into a world class soloist who is equally at home with Bach, Funk and most everything in-between. The Fourth Valve sails the Atlantic to boogie with master tubist Sergio Carolina. Enjoy!
3. What is it about jazz that makes you want to play it? What are the most satisfying ways that you can imagine a tubist playing in a jazz group?
Since I was a little boy learning tuba to play on the wind band, some of my closest friends and I discovered jazz, funky, Dixieland and second lines bands like Louis Armstrong (and his Hot Five and Hot Seven), Bob Scobey Frisco Band, Dukes of Dixieland, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Rebirth Brass Band, Lester Bowie Brass Fantasy and Sam Pilafian’s Travelling Light.

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

The Future is Here! Beth Wiese Schools “The Fourth Valve” tm
Beth Wiese is an award winning soloist, an accomplished orchestral player, and innovative chamber musician. A forward thinking entrepreneur, she is about to become Dr. Wiese, and takes a moment to reflect and look ahead.
2. What helps you be more musically expressive?
Listening. Before I started playing the tuba, I played the violin and really developed a love for string repertoire — Brahms sextets, Mendelssohn trios and octet, Borodin quartets, Ravel, Debussy, Elgar…you get the idea. Whenever I hit a musical “road block,” or simply am struggling for inspiration, that’s where I turn. In great performances of those works, the phrasing is this beautiful balance between creativity and logic; it sounds completely fresh, but also like it couldn’t possibly be played any other way. That kind of conviction is inspiring and what I think we should all aspire to in our musical endeavors.
From a practical perspective, I have a few ideas that I enjoy using in my practicing. The first is playing with recordings — whether it be whatever I’m practicing or sight-reading. This is my favorite part of the day — sticking in a pair of headphones and playing along with the CSO/Martinon Nielsen 4 recording, or the Britten/Rostropovich recording of Schubert’s Arpeggione Sonata, or whatever else…it’s impossible to not be inspired musically, and to feel that musicality from such an intimate perspective is a great learning experience, in my opinion.
Lastly, thinking about music in the simplest units possible — literally note-by-note — helps me achieve an organic musical expression. I think there are only two types of notes — those that lead somewhere, or those that are arrivals. In effect, pick-ups or downbeats. Understanding how each note operates within a phrase gives it a sense of purpose, and can be a great musical exercise — especially with lyrical studies such as Bordogni-Rochut etudes, etc. As a former string player, I used to put bowings into my Conconne etudes, and that is a pretty similar idea, and a really fun exercise! Read more…

“Mr. Tuba Ensemble”, R. Winston Morris Rocks “The Fourth Valve” tm
imagesWith dozens of albums, legions of successful alumni, Carnegie Hall recitals and countless premieres of new works and arrangements for tuba, The Tennessee Tech Tuba Ensemble (TTTE), has done everything a college group can possibly do-short of facing Ohio State in The Rose Bowl, and it wouldn’t be wise to bet against them! At the heart of the TTTE is the Sargent-General, a man of unequaled accomplishments in the realm of tuba ensembles, a founder of the Tubists Universal Brotherhood Association (T.U.B.A.),an accomplished tubist and legendary teacher and molder of young men and women, R. Winston Morris. It was he and Connie Weldon who shaped the modern ensemble, and Morris’ many contributions to tuba literature are unsurpassed. “The Fourth Valve” tm Rocks with Winston Morris!

How do you conceive or describe the ideal tuba sound?
I can’t describe the ideal tuba sound. I can hear it… I can’t verbalize it! And of course there are many different “ideal” sounds. Is the tuba playing with the bass section? The horn section? The trombone section? Doubling bassoons? Playing jazz, playing quintet, playing an F, E flat, CC or BB flat tuba? Etc. This really identifies why we musicians are dealing with ART and not SCIENCE. I guess science could tell us a perfect tuba sound.

Of course the tuba “sound” is one of the most complicated brass wind generated “sounds” there is anyway. When you’re starting from the bottom there is much more potential for generating overtones/partials at different strengths than higher instruments.

After over 50 years of teaching and performing with virtually half the tuba/euphonium population on the planet and documenting most repertoire and recordings ever done for the tuba the answer is there is no simple answer. I STILL learn something virtually every time a student walks in my studio.

If there is anyone out there in brass land who thinks they have all the answers they are wrong! What works for one individual may well be the exact opposite of what “works” for someone else. I know many successful performers who are great but you would not have someone else emulated the way they play the horn because it simply would not work for someone with a different physical configuration which is a minor consideration relative to concept of sound. I’ve known players who could pick up a plastic Sousaphone and sound better than other players on a $25,000 state of the art brass instrument! Mind over matter really does exist!!!! Read more…

Aaron Tindall On “The Fourth Valve” tm
photo 5Aaron Tindall is a rare tandem of a sensational tuba virtuoso and accomplished euphonium player; he is both an expressive chamber musician and a solid orchestral performer. He possesses the heart of a student and the reflection of a teacher. The Fourth Valve is doubly pleased to welcome Aaron Tindall to respond as for both-tuba and euphonium!!

6. What switches click in your mind and approach when playing orchestral music as opposed to solo repertoire?

I am all about consistency in everything that I do. When things are consistent, things are authoritative. When things are authoritative, people will LISTEN! The way you do anything, is the way you do everything. My goal is to be able to control the horn technically at an incredibly high level, so that when I see a phrase and sing it in my head, I can instantly and effortlessly relay that musical message to the listener. Knowing exactly how to control the instrument allows me to be free musically, and creates the ability to change my opinion about a phrase on a moment’s notice with the confidence that it will happen. It doesn’t really matter to me if a phrase is from an orchestral passage, or a ridiculous lick from a tuba concerto. I try to not think of orchestral playing and solo repertoire as being different from one another. What changes for me are the stylistic demands that a composer may ask a performer to make. At some points within music we are asked to be the leader, other times a follower, and at yet other times a collaborator, etc. This is true for both solo playing and orchestral playing. My job as a musician is to be able to effortlessly execute the phrasing and musical expressions that I want the listener to experience. Read more…

Aaron McCalla Shows “THE FOURTH VALVE” tm True Versatility with the Naples Phil.
The Naples Philharmonic does it all: from concert orchestral music to accompanying the Miami City Ballet when in Naples to pops and chamber music. Their tubist, Aaron McCalla, goes even further as a featured soloist, recitalist, rock musician, and solo tuba in the virtuoso Brass Miami. McCallastudied at Southern Methodist University, the Juilliard School and the New England Conservatory and has held the position of principal tuba for the Colorado (Denver) Symphony Orchestra. His occasional performances include the New York Philharmonic, the Boston, Albany, Vermont, Rhode Island, Jacksonville symphonies and the Boston Pops. In addition to his orchestral duties, McCalla is a member of the band LNE and performs to packed houses throughout Central America.From Tanglewood to funk, McCalla has a the appropriate bass line, and davidbrubeck.com is delighted to host him in “The Fourth Valve” tm.


1. Breathing is key to wind instruments, none more so than the tuba. Can you discuss your journey of awakening with regards to breathing. What did your teachers emphasize, and what have you discovered on your own?
Breathing is absolutely key. I have to be honest though, I have never thought too much about it outside of making sure that I am being efficient. My first teacher in college, Matt Good, was probably my biggest influence. Until I met him, I didn’t know that there are many different types of breaths you have to master. Every breath is different but has to be as efficient as any other. I have always loved sports and running. I feel like the breathing required for sprinting or swimming is not exactly like that required for tuba playing, but it helps tuba in every way in that it requires you to be able to pull in maximum volume of air. When swimming laps, I am not analyzing my breathing, I am only thinking, “I need a breath!” So, when it comes to tuba I just try to take as much in as I would in sports but in a relaxed and musically appropriate way. In the end, I try to not paralyze myself with over analysis of something I have been doing since birth. Read more…

Chitate Kagawa Invites “The Fourth Valve” tm to Japan
Chitate Kagawa performed as the principal tubist of the Sapporo Symphony until his retirement in 2004. In 2010 he was awarded the ITEA Lifetime Achievement Award, and has been a strong advocate for the tuba throughout Japan as host of ITEC Saporo in 1990 and with the Hakkaido Euphonium and Tuba Association. A former student of Harvey Phillips, “The Fourth Valve” tm, Caught up with Mr. Kagawa at the 2014 ITEC at Indiana University, where he had been a student as a young man. It was evident that none of his enthusiasm for music, the tuba, or Mr. Phillips had waned. We are delighted to host Chitate Kagawa for “The Fourth Valve”.

Chitate Kagawa 1. How do you imagine an ideal tuba sound?
When an excellent singer sings a soft aria with an orchestra, the voice
carries great distances very naturally without having great power, even if it is soft voice. We listen for a very soft tuba sound on the stage, which seems well-balanced with other instruments, but most of the time we can’t hear the
tuba sounds at the seats. This means that this tuba sound doesn’t have enough core,but it is soft. Some say the tuba part should be mixed with the contra
basses, I agree with this concept, but I can’t agree those who say
the tuba should be always be melted in the contra basses. When we listen the
brilliant tuba in the orchestra concert, asa solo performer, or in the
brass quintet, some may feel that the tuba is the most interesting instrument. It is natural, as players, that we listen many types of sound colors produced by a variety of instruments or mouthpieces, and diverse playing techniques which are often quite different from one another. As tubists, we
should listen to many excellent performances, by not only tuba, but
also cello,voice, wood wind etc. This way, we can image an ideal sound on
tuba little by little. We should have good tonal image or ideal and practice every day toward the ideal tuba sound quality and not simply be shouldn’t satisfy present our sounds. Read more…

Marty Erickson’s Design for “The Fourth Valve” tm
imagesMarty Erickson served as a concerto soloist with the Navy Band, is an accomplished jazz man with three jazz cds to his credit, and presently finds himself utterly devoted to chamber music (with the improvising Millenium Brass)and to his students. A thinking man’s tubist, Erickson draws upon his rich musical life to explore the chamber music ramifications of the euphonium and the tuba, and to contemplate the future young musicians on those instruments might encounter. Though rooted in firm foundations which reach back to Leonard B. Falcone, Erickson has consistently forged beyond convention. Bold, fresh and visionary is Marty Erickson’s design for “The Fourth Valve” tm.
3. Why is the Eb tuba often overlooked?
What does it do better than other tubas? Naturally, I am a bit prejudiced in this category, since I have championed the Eb tuba for many years and love my (shameless plug) Willson 3400 Eb tuba. The primary reasons I have found that this works for me the following:
–Versatile solo instrument
–My favorite brass quintet instrument because of the way it blends with the trumpets, horn
and trombone and the Eb enjoys a robust low range that many smaller F tubas can find
challenging below the staff
–It IS one the brass band chair instruments of course
–Liked using it to double the BBb or even the CC tubas in the concert band as it tends to
fill out the middle range in much the same way it is used in the brass band
–Surprise! It was an awesome Opera tuba. When I performed several jobs with the Baltimore
Opera Orchestra (sadly now defunct), there were many comments from the conductors
and the string players about how they appreciated the full sound without feeling “over-
powered AND; string bassists and cellists cited it was easier to tune passages. Read more…

th-3Oystein Baadsvik, the great international tuba soloist, drops by “The Fourth Valve” tm and blows our minds!
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. Read more…

UnknownDon Harry Enlivens “The Fourth Valve”tm
An illustrious teacher in his own right, Harry seems to embody the Bill Bell-Harvey Phillips line of tuba excellence in his current duties as Eastman faculty, member of the Eastman Faculty Brass, tubist with the Buffalo Philharmonic and as a soloist. “The Fourth Valve” tm is overjoyed to enjoy the enlivened discussion with such a distinguished guest.

1. How do you conceive of, describe or imagine the ideal tuba sound?
There is no one tuba sound except in the practice zone; the literature determines the color. Sometimes Read more…

john_stevensjpegJohn Stevens Tackles “The Fourth Valve” tm
A bracelet inscribed with the motto “Been there, done that!” was said to be among the possessions most prized by the then recently retired opera star Beverly Sills. When asked if she might not miss some of the excitement of her former career, she was reminded of her accomplishment by the response inscribed on the bracelet.

While comparing a soprano to a tubist may seem a sonic stretch to some, few things could be more apt than the motto of Sills’ bracelet in describing the recent retirement of tubist, composer and educator John Stevens.

From a solo feature in Broadway’s “Barnum”, to performances with the top Brass Quintets and more-tubist John Stevens has “been there”. As a celebrated professor at distinguished universities, and a composer of a rich body of work which includes a concerto for tuba commissioned by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra-John Stevens has “done that”! “The Fourth Valve” tm is privileged to present the amazing John Stevens as the first respondent of our second set of four interviews on davidbrubeck.com Read more…

220px-The_Legend_of_Zorro_posterJim Self Solos on “The Fourth Valve” tm No. 4, Tuba Euphonium Interview Series,
You would be hard pressed to find many musicians on ANY instrument as versatile and talented as tubist Jim Self. From top Hollywood studio dates, to playing principal tuba in The Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, playing the John Williams Tuba Concerto under the composer’s baton to being nominated by DOWNBEAT, Jim Self is remarkable and unique. His endeavors stretch to more than a dozen solo recordings and numerous compositions as well. What would you expect from the protege of Harvey Phillips and Tommy Johnson? Read more…

Los Angeles Tuba Freelancer, Educator, and Kanstul Artist Beth Mitchell Beth Mitchell is an active Los Angeles freelancer, having worked with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and Orange County Philharmonic Societies, the Los Angeles Zipper Orchestra, and many other arts groups giving concerts, masterclasses and numerous solo and chamber recitals around southern California.”The Fourth Valve” tm No. 3
Read more…

Hollywood Recording Legend, Tubist John Van Houten
“The Fourth Valve” tm No. 2

Ranked among the first call tubists in the top recording city of Los Angeles, John Van Houten is no stranger to playing on a variety of instruments and in a number of different styles. Best known as a tubist, contractor & orchestra manager, and teacher, Van Houten has performed on several major television shows and popular movie soundtracks including “Family Guy”, “The Simpsons”, Hulk, Pirates of the Caribbean, Star Trek, the award winning UP, and Ratatouille. He has taught at prestigious institutions throughout Southern California, and has performed with some of the finest musicians in the world. davidbrubeck.com is delighted to catch up with John Van Houten for the second installment of “The Fourth Valve”, tm.
Read more…

ASU Professor of Tuba and
imagesFormer Solo Tuba of The Dallas Brass,
“The Fourth Valve” tm No. 1, Deanna Swobodafirst came to national prominence as tubist with the Dallas Brass. Her rock solid time and sensitive phrasing seemed effortless as she anchored the world-famous brass. Swoboda subsequently served on the music faculty of Western Michigan University and has recently accepted a faculty position at Arizona State University.Read more…

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

DUO BRASS To Debut @ ITG Conference! Craig Morris, Marc Reese, Peter Wood and Jason Carder-& a Free TROMBA Plastic Trumpet Giveaway!Craig Morris headshot

ALl Star Trumpet Virtuosi CRAIG MORRIS, MARC REESE, PETER WOOD and JASON CARDER are joined by bass trombonist DAVID WILLIAM BRUBECK to form DUO BRASS. Dedicated to exploring chamber music in the intimate setting of two brass, DUO BRASS will debut at the 40th Anniversary of The International Trumpet Guild in Columbus, Ohio on Wednesday May 27th at 11:15 am in The Delaware Room at the Hyatt Regency. Highlights of the performance will include the world premiere of “A Postcard from Rio”, by Brazilian Composer Ney Rosauro which infuses the rhythms and charm of Rio through contemporary brass. TROMBA-The Ultimate Plastic Trumpet will be giving away a free plastic trumpet to one audience member in attendance, and Gordon Cherry, of Cherry Classics publishing will provide complimentary copies to two audience members of “Ten Duets for Trumpet in C and Trombone”.

Trumpet Soloist Craig Morris will perform in the premiere of the Rosauro composition, and Conn-Selmer Artists Marc Reese and Peter Wood will provide their interpretations of the “Ten Duets”. A special jazz brass duo or two will feature Calicchio artist Jason Carder. Each of the all-star trumpeters will be joined by Earl Williams/Calicchio artist David William Brubeck, who arranged many of the duos in collaboration with Brian Neal.

Jason Carder DUO BRASS at ITG 2015 davidbrubeck.com

Jason Carder

Jazz trumpet phenom Jason Carder has contributed his talent to thousands of live performances (including: Yanni, Maria Schneider, Ray Charles, Woody Herman, Maynard Ferguson, Paul Anka, K.C. and the Sunshine Band, & The Jaco Pastorius Big Band), on over Eighty albums, (including: “Sky Blue” by Maria Schneider; Arturo Sandoval’s “Rumba Palace,” “Americana,” and Grammy Award-winning “Hot House”, and Yanni’s DVD “Yanni Voices Live from the forum in Acapulco”) and numerous soundtracks (including: “There’s Something About Mary”, “Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights,” and “Bailando por Un Sueno.”) Jason is elated to return to his home state of Arizona, where he has accepted a position on the faculty at the University of Arizona.

Carder studied music at Interlochen and The University of Miami, and has taught previously at The University of Miami, The Prep Division of Mannes School of Music and Florida International University. He has appeared as featured soloist with numerous ensembles, including the Florida Philharmonic Orchestra under Peter Nero, the New World School of the Arts Big Band and now tours extensively as the trumpet soloist with Yanni.

Peter Wood DUO BRASS at ITG 2015 davidbrubeck.com

Peter Wood

Dr. Peter Wood is a faculty member at the International Trumpet Symposium in Ronzo-Chienis, Italy, performs with the Mobile Symphony Orchestra, and has released three solo CD recordings. Wood is an award-winning Professor of Music at the University of South Alabama, where he shares his passion for trumpet and brass chamber music. Wood also serves as Publications Editor for the International Trumpet Guild and as a member of the ITG Board of Directors. His credentials include Doctor of Music at the prestigious Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University, a Master of Music at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a Bachelor of Science from the University of Illinois.

Marc Reese DUO BRASS at ITG 2015 davidbrubeck.com

Marc Reese

Internationally acclaimed trumpeter Marc Reese is best known for his 17 year tenure in the Empire Brass Quintet. He is highly regarded as an orchestral musician, having been engaged to perform in the trumpet sections of the New York Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra and the Boston Symphony. Mr. Reese has recorded for Telarc with the Empire Brass, for Sony with the Boston Pops and has been featured on the Naxos label with the Boston Modern Orchestra Project.

Mr. Reese focuses a great deal of his time on education serving as Assistant Dean and Brass Department Head for Lynn University’s Conservatory of Music. He is a Bach trumpet artist and clinician and serves as the contributing editor of the International Trumpet Guild Journal’s Chamber Connection column.

As a young artist Mr. Reese spent his formative years attending the Tanglewood Institute and Juilliard’s preparatory division where he studied with Mel Broiles and Mark Gould. He went on to attend Boston University and New England Conservatory studying with Roger Voisin and Tim Morrison respectively. Visit www.MarcReese.com for more information.

Craig Morris DUO BRASS at ITG 2015 davidbrubeck.com

Craig Morris

As a soloist, Craig Morris has been featured with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the San Francisco Symphony, the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, the Beijing Modern Music Festival, the Sacramento Symphony, and the Miami Bach Society. Craig’s debut solo CD, Permit Me Voyage, was released on Naxos in 2011, and followed the acclaimed 2007 Naxos release, Reflections, which featured Morris as the soloist on Thom Sleeper’s Concerto for Trumpet.

Craig has performed as Principal Trumpet on the Grammy nominated recording of Furtwangler’s Symphony No. 2 with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Daniel Barenboim, as well as numerous recordings with the San Francisco Symphony.
Prior to his appointment in Chicago, Morris held the position of Associate Principal Trumpet in the San Francisco Symphony and Principal Trumpet in the Sacramento Symphony. He has performed with artists such as Pinchas Zukerman, Martha Argeric, Daniel Barenboim, Marin Alsop, Michael Tilson Thomas, Miroslav Rostropovich, Gil Shaham, and Helene Grimaud among others.

Morris is currently the Professor of Trumpet and Chair of the Brass Program at the University of Miami, Frost School of Music, where he devotes himself to inspiring young musicians and charting new territories as a soloist and chamber musician.

Dr. David William Brubeck serves as Professor of Music at the Kendall Campus of Miami Dade College where heIllustration of David Brubeck
coordinates the chamber music program and teaches trombone as well as courses in Music Theory and Jazz. Brubeck performs regularly with the Miami City Ballet Orchestra, Brass Miami, DUO BRUBECK, DUO BRASS and DUO WINDS. Brubeck’s occasional performances have included the likes of Stevie Wonder, The Bolshoi Ballet, Ray Charles, the American Ballet Theatre and as a solo artist for the International Trombone Festival, and the International Tuba and Euphonium Conference.

Brubeck’s compositions, entitled Stereograms, have been performed and recorded throughout the globe and three were recently recorded by Boston Symphony bass trombonist James Markey on his latest CD, “Psychedelia”. These self-accompanied rhythmic etudes inspired by the Cello Suites of Bach and the unaccompanied works of Bobby McFerrin have been transcribed for saxophone and tuba. As a soloist, Brubeck has been featured with the Miami Wind Symphony, The Florida Atlantic University Orchestra, Greater Miami Symphonic Band with pianist Bronwen Rutter. Brubeck has comissioned, premiered and performed countless works for bass trombone.


c. 2015 David William Brubeck. All Rights Reserved. davidbrubeck.com

Images courtesy of Craig Morris, Marc Reese, Peter Wood, Jason Carder & Tromba.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Craig Knox, of The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Center City Brass, and The Curtis Institute Enters “The Fourth Valve” tmunnamed-3

As Principal Tubist with The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Founding Member of the Center City Brass Quintet, Artist Faculty at Carnegie Mellon University, Adjunct Professorat Duquense University and now Faculty at The Curtis Institute of Music, Craig Knox is in demand. As a student at the famed Curtis institute, and now a faculty member, he joins a distinguished list of pioneers on the instrument. Amongst the first to bring brass chamber music to Curtis, Knox’s playing and career have been shaped nearly as much by chamber music as orchestral performances. A keen advocate of having the right combination of sound and ease for the musical situation, he rotates between a variety of instruments-all Meinl Weston. Craig’s expressions are bold and subtle, strong and musical, and we are delighted to present his installment of “THE FOURTH VALVE” tm

Center City Brass Di Lorenzo, Yamomoto, Knox, Hardcastle & King www.davidbrubeck.com

Center City Brass
Di Lorenzo, Yamomoto, Knox, Hardcastle & King

1. Talk about your involvement with Center City ​B​rass​ Quintet​. What has it meant to you & what have you learned?
​Although my career goal was always to play in an orchestra, in many ways the Center City Brass Quintet has been one of the most constant and important parts of my life as a musician.​ I was a founding member, along with four other first-year students at the Curtis Institute in 1985…we’ve been in existence for almost 30 years now! At the time, there was no organized brass chamber music program at Curtis. We formed the group on our own and went to the administration to request coaching. We were very active through our four years at school; we played recitals every chance we had, and we traveled quite a bit around Philly, to New York, and to California for competitions.

We had so many great experiences, that when we all went our separate ways after graduation, we wanted to get back together for a reunion. Initially the idea was just to get together for fun, but we would always put on a recital as well. After a couple years we decided we should make a recording. Sam Pilafian produced the sessions, and it resulted in a really fine product that we were able to sell to a small British label with world-wide distribution. That made it easy to get concert management, and we began to schedule concerts whenever we were all available at the same time…which was almost never!

Over the following years, we’ve had some personnel changes and we’ve lost two beloved members (the late John DiLutis Jr. in 1992, and Steven



Witser in 2009), but we’ve always made it a priority to set aside a week or two each year for the group. We’ve played all over the U.S., presented classes at many universities, made 4 or 5 trips to Japan, and made 6 commercial recordings. And it always feels like a special occasion.

When we were in school, we rehearsed a LOT. One year, we basically worked on one piece (Ewald 3) for the entire year. One thing we learned early on was that while there are sometimes things that need to be discussed, it’s always better to play more and talk less in rehearsal. We also learned to LISTEN. We would sometimes turn our chairs backwards so that we couldn’t see each other as we played. We had to figure out how to play perfectly together without visual cues, relying only on the sound of each others’ breaths, and the subtle clues in each others’ sound and phrasing. We got so that we would know what the other players were going to do before they did it. I remember when we were still in school we once had a live radio broadcast on which we decided to sightread a piece we’d never rehearsed…we were so comfortable playing with each other that we didn’t think twice about it! The work we did on our ensemble 30 years years ago is still paying off today, because these days we have minimal time for rehearsal each time we perform.

2. How many different tubas do you use on a regular basis? What are their sizes and specializations?
​I have 5 tubas at the moment. My primary instrument is a Melton Meinl Weston 6450/2 handmade Baer model CC tuba. This is an orchestral instrument with a very large and powerful sound that is also very efficient and able to create a clear tone and clean articulation.

Recently I purchased a large BBb tuba, a 5-valve piston version of the Melton Meinl Weston Fafner model (195-5P). Although American orchestral tubists have traditionally used CC tubas almost exclusively, I’m finding there is certain repertoire that really benefits from the broader, deeper sound of the BBb. Prokofiev, Shostakovich​, Rachmaninoff and other Russian repertoire for instance. The difficulty is maintaining the same level of articulate clarity, but it can be done on this instrument, and my colleagues in the orchestra and students in the audience have noticed the different color the BBb provides.

imagesI have always played a CC tuba in quintet, and I am currently using the Melton Meinl Weston 3450 “Sassy” model (pistons). While some prefer F tuba in quintet for clarity and agility, I prefer the fuller sound of the CC to match my powerful colleagues! This is also the sound I have in my head from one of my first teachers, Sam Pilafian, who was playing in the Empire Brass when I was studying with him. My primary F tuba, which I use in the orchestra and for solo playing, is the Melton Meinl Weston 2250 (piston). I also have a small rotary F tuba (Melton Meinl Weston 182) which I only use on occasion.

3. How do you conceive of articulation and explain it to your students? Do you adapt articulation from orchestral to chamber to solo situations?
​I think of sound first, and articulation second. ​That is to say that I think a lot of beginning players rely too much on the tongue to start the note, sometimes resulting in a compressed burr of sound at the front of the note, followed by an unsupported tone.​ I also point out that a listener hearing a brass instrument has no expectation of hearing a “T” sound at the beginning of a note, any more than they would expect to hear that from a violin or timpani. What the listener wants to hear is a clarity and immediacy of tone at the beginning of the note.

We should use the tongue as much as necessary to create that clarity, keeping in mind that it is the buzzing of the lips that creates the actual sound, not the pushing of the tongue. So for technical passages, I always start by practicing the passage slurred, to make sure that the tone production is good all the way through each note, and then I “overlay” the tonguing to create the articulation I want. I do use a range of tongued consonants (T, D, etc.) to achieve a range of articulations, but I don’t think of orchestra, chamber and solo being separate categories in this regard. I think more about what the music requires, and in fact there are solo and chamber situations within the context of orchestral playing.
​ ​
4. Do you advocate essentially one embouchure, or a pivot system?

​I do use a “single embouchure” approach. That is to say that I don’t use any “shifts”;

Craig Knox, Tuba www.davidbrubeck.com

Craig Knox, Tuba

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

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

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

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

5. Which classical composers have you come to admire most for their orchestrations, from your vantage point within the orchestra?

Prokofiev, Mahler, Wagner, and Richard Strauss have to top the list from the core repertoire.

Prokofiev in particular uses the tuba in such varied and creative ways, sometimes as bass voice in a large brass choir, sometimes alone with bass trombone, and often alone with the horn section, the low woodwinds or the string bass section. There are incredibly beautiful, evocative moments in his Romeo and Juliet ballet, and quirky solos in pieces you might not even expect to have tuba at all, such as his violin and piano concerti.

Mahler is slightly more traditional in his use of the instrument, but uses it extensively, and has given us important solo moments, particularly in the 1st, 5th, and 6th symphonies. ​Wagner, Strauss, Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich all provide us with extensive, challenging and rewarding parts as well.

There really are so many: Hindemith, Nielsen, and in particular Vaughan Williams, who, although not that often performed in the U.S., wrote some amazing tuba parts in his symphonies. These days, there are a lot of composers who ​write well for the tuba​ in their orchestral works​. ​Some of the contemporary composers who stand out to me are John Adams, Jennifer Higdon, James MacMillan, and Mason Bates.

6. What chamber music settings for tuba might you like to see composers and arrangers explore? Anything unusual on your horizon?

​As we already discussed, I have played a lot of chamber music over the years, but most all of it has been with other brass players. In addition to the Center City Brass Quintet and the Chicago Chamber Musicians Brass Quintet, I have also played a lot of chamber music with my colleagues in the PSO Brass and the PSO low brass section, with which I recorded a CD called “From the Back Row”.

I guess what I would like to do to expand on this is to play more music with mixed instrumentation. I was a co-commissioner of James Stevenson’s recent work for tuba, horn and piano (premiered by Steven Campbell) called “Vast and Curious”, but I haven’t had a chance to perform it myself yet.

I would definitely like to play some chamber music with strings; I’ve always found that the sound of the tuba mixed with strings is complimentary…not ​overbearing, and providing a different sound that allows for a nice blend, but with independence of voices. As a matter of fact, a colleague of mine in the PSO recently approached me about playing on a concert with string quartet, so I have started doing some research looking for that combination. Roland Szentpali has written a great piece for tuba and string quartet called “Ballade”.

Craig Knox, Tuba www.davidbrubeck.com

Craig Knox, Tuba

7. Please discuss the special lineage you have from Bill Bell and your relationship with The Curtis Institute. How have you been influenced by Arnold Jacobs, who is also a Curtis alum?
​I began a faculty appointment at the Curtis Institute this past fall. Besides being exciting in itself, this is particularly meaningful for me since I received my degree from Curtis. It is a very small school of about 160 students, and I was only the 20th tuba student in its history.​

There wasn’t a day during that time that I ​wasn’t conscious of what a privilege it was to study at a school with such a rich history and high standards, so it’s a special situation to be able to continue a relationship with the school at this point in my career, working with a new generation of students. It’s also nice to be seeing so much of Paul Krzywicki, who was my teacher at Curtis, and who is also still on the faculty.

Paul Krzywicki studied with Bill Bell at Indiana University, and in fact was very close with him, sharing a house with him across the street from the School of Music. So to the extent that Bill Bell was such a major influence on Paul and his playing and teaching, I have certainly been influenced by those same values.

Arnold Jacobs preceded me as a student at Curtis (by about 50 years!)​, and also happened to precede me in the Pittsburgh Symphony, where he played for five years under Fritz Reiner, before they both went to Chicago. However, I never had much direct contact with Mr. Jacobs. I met him when I auditioned for Northwestern, and I attended a summer master class session he presented at Trenton State University. I will say that I was fascinated by his class, gave much thought at the time to what he said, and can still remember much of it very clearly.

So, there are some cool connections that I can trace to Bill Bell and Arnold Jacobs, but the fact is that most every tuba player of the current generation can trace some connection to one or both of those men. Bell and Jacobs were the dominant tuba figures of their time, and their playing and teaching informed everything that has happened since on our instrument.

8. What have you yet to do in music that you still hope to explore?
​I don’t even know where to begin with this one! The learning, exploration, and improvement should never end. I am always trying to improve my playing and my musicianship, and I’m always looking for new repertoire to learn. ​I love to teach and, although it is a cliche; I learn a lot from the process of clarifying my thoughts and concepts for my students, and my students often give me new ideas as well.

I will tell you that one thing I find myself thinking about is what drew me to music as a young beginner. There is a creative excitement we all feel when we begin the journey as a musician, and it can be hard to retain that as we become occupied with fulfilling our professional obligations. I am always looking for ways to keep this feeling alive.
9. What is the best tuba playing you have ever heard?

​This is impossible to answer. However, I’ll mention some of the playing that was inspirational to me as a young aspiring tubist. Sam Pilafian was one of my primary teachers in high school, during the time he was playing in the Empire Brass. His incredible musicianship, creativity, energy, and technical ability were hugely influential.

I also studied for a time as a teenager with Chester Schmitz of the Boston Symphony Orchestra; he had a beautiful, smooth, fluid sound that I remember vividly. My very first teacher was Gary Ofenloch, who had a powerful, clear, singing tone.

Also during these high school years, there were recordings I listened to countless times, including Gene Pokorny with the St. Louis Symphony (Prokofiev 5), Arnold Jacobs with the CSO (Bruckner 4), Roger Bobo with the LA Phil (Tchaikowsky Romeo & Juliet Overture), and Warren Deck with the NY Phil. When I began studies at Curtis, I heard Paul Krzywicki in the Philadelphia Orchestra live almost every week; ​one highlight was an absolutely incredible slow movement from Bruckner 7 with Klaus Tennstedt. ​​

10. What is the best tuba playing you have ever done?

​Again, this is something I cannot answer!​ ​I’ve had some amazing opportunities to make music with some of the world’s best musicians in some special venues, and I’d like to think that I’ve always done my best to play in a way that contributed to a beautiful performance.​
c. 2015 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved. davidbrubeck.com

Images courtesy of Craig Knox, and The Center City Brass Quintet

Interested in more “The Fourth Valve” tm Interviews?
unnamed-3Don Harry
John Stevens
Jim Self
John Van Houten
Demondrae Thurman
Deanna Swoboda
R. Winston Morris
th-1Beth Wiese
Aaron Tindall
Marty Erickson
Beth Mitchell
Chitate Kagawa
Aaron McCalla

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

A Single Voice From Fukishima, Heard By “The Fourth Valve” tm

Mitsuru Saito "The FourthValve" tm davidbrubeck.com

Mitsuru Saito
“The FourthValve” tm

The tragic events of the Fukishima Nuclear disaster in a country as sophisticated as Japan, sent shockwaves throughout the world, and an untold environmental cost. But what of the human loss? Of abandoned homes, illness and uncertainty. And what response can a single musician have in the face of such upheaval? Mitsuru Saito is an accomplished euphonium player and scholar whose resolve would face this challenge as a single voice. “The Fourth Valve” tm, is honored to have the accomplished and resilient Mr. Saito join our interview series.

1. As a listener, which concertos for other instruments do you find most satisfying? For euphonium?
I really like listening to piano concertos. The sound that piano makes is totally different from that of orchestra; therefore, piano can stick out from orchestra. I really like piano concertos by Russian composers. I hope they would have written for euphonium.

My favorite euphonium concerto is Ponchielli’s Concerto per flicorno basso. The concerto is simple and natural, in addition it has a lot of potential. If I have time, I would like to make a new edition of the concerto both urtext version and my original version.

2. You recently performed a guest artist recital at the University of North Texas; what were your thoughts about that, and how special UNT with Dr. Bowman has become for euphonium?
I have some performance opportunities to perform with Dr. Bowman in last few years. Every time I perform with him, I learn numerous things through his performances still now. The last performance I gave in front of Dr. Bowman was my last DMA recital in 2008 at UNT. Every time I gave a performance in front to Dr. Bowman was jury-like or competition situations.

Euphonium Quartet, “Song for Japan”, by Steve Verhelst: Dr.Bowman, Dr.Mitsuru Saito, Mai Kokubo, and Takeshi Hatano.

3. What is your view of vibrato in general, and as applied to the euphonium?
I really think vibrato is necessary for playing the euphonium. I usually use vibrato for solo performances, but not so much for orchestral and band performances. I don’t think I use vibrato on orchestral excerpts of Richard Strauss, Holst, and Mahler. I think I use less vibrato compared to many American euphonium players.

4. You have become the first Japanese person awarded a Doctorate in Euphonium Performance. How does that feel? What refinements and

Mitsuru and Brian Bowman "The Fourth Valve" tm davidbrubeck.com

Mitsuru and Brian Bowman
“The Fourth Valve” tm

awarenesses were made possible by your work beyond a Master’s degree?
I was originally thinking about being a college professor teaching music education in Japan. It is very rare for a euphonium player to be a full time college professor in Japan, and I was not thinking about being a full time college professor teaching euphonium performance in Japan. In order to teach at an educational college, I think I should be able to teach not only euphonium performance but also others including trombone and other brass instruments, music theory, music history, and others. I spent about 8 years to finish my DMA degree because I was studying trombone, music theory in addition to euphonium performance.

But now, I am enjoying myself being a freelance euphonium player in Tokyo (although I teach more than 20 students a week as a adjunct faculty), and I haven’t applied for college teaching jobs. Therefore, I don’t think I currently have an advantage with having a doctoral degree in euphonium performance as long as I am a freelance euphonium player.

5. Which are your favorite solos with piano accompaniment, and why?
My favorite solo for euphonium is Casterede’s Fantasie Concertante although it is not originally written for euphonium (originally for bass trombone or saxhorn basse). The piece is not too long, easy to understand, and happy. But it contains so many great theoretical ideas. I enjoy playing the piano part of the piece, too.

6. You are from Fukushima. Can you tell us about your town before and after the disaster? How has the event affected your humanity and your artistry?
My hometown is Minamisoma city, which is located about 20 miles from the nuclear plant. Half of people in the city did not have to move to another place, but the rest had to live in a different city. In addition, some people chose to move to a different place although they could live in the city because of the radiation, and many young people have left the town. Therefore, the city is currently not very active. My parents live in the city, so do many of my relatives.

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

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

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

8. Can you compare studying in an advanced urban center such as Tokyo to the less urban confines of Ann Arbor or Denton? How did it effect your daily living and your music making?
How is technology different?

Tokyo is an exciting city—so many cultural events are going on everyday. There are many great halls (although none of them are very historic), and there are 10 professional orchestras in Tokyo area. There are so many professional musicians and students in a small city. Compared to Tokyo, Ann Arbor and Denton is small. But I liked studying there as a students. I was able to focus on my study and practicing.

In Japan, school classes were not so difficult—I did not have to prepare to classes a lot and I did not study hard. But I was required to study hard while I was at the University of Michigan and North Texas. Therefore, I spend a lot of time at school. Of course, I had to practice, too.

I did not have very many activities while I was in the United States, I was able to have time to practice. Therefore, I decided to study trombone too. My first teacher was David Jackson at the University of Michigan. I was so lucky to have a great teacher from the begging of trombone playing.

Mitsuru Saito "The Fourth Valve" tm davidbrubeck.com

Mitsuru Saito
“The Fourth Valve” tm

9. Do you think that a greater variety of chamber music outlets could benefit euphonium players? Which possibilities, in addition to the tuba quartet, do you see?

I am a member of Samurai Brass, which is a 10-piece brass and percussion ensemble group playing both classical and Jazz music. The group has produced 7 CDs and there are good number of funs for the group. Euphonium has very important role in the group, and it proves that euphonium can be very effective in medium-large brass ensemble.

I frequently play French horn part of brass quintet pieces. Members of the brass quintet group like the sound of the euphonium because it matches with the sound of tuba. It is especially good for outside performances.

I sometimes form euphonium ensemble groups in Tokyo. I use original and transcribed music, also I make my own arrangements.

I have done concerts of euphonium, tuba and piano trio. We have played original works, vocal music, Jazz, arrangements from string music, and others. We played violin, cello and piano trio.

I have not tried other chamber music good for euphonium.

10. What is the best euphonium playing you have heard?
I was very impressed by Dr. Bowman’s performance in 1993 when he came to Japan. I was a high school student at that time, and I decided to go to college majoring euphonium performance after I heard his performance. I do not remember exactly what he performed at that time, but I really remember he played Greensleeves as an encore piece. I was so moved by his musicality and tone quality.

c. 2015 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved. dvaidbrubeck.com

Images Courtesy of Mitsuru Saito

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

John Noxon: A Young Boy Apprenticed To Earl Williams Recollects For “The Craftsmen’s Bench” tm5eba1111

“Dear John”-it seems as though any question regarding Earl WIlliams or his legendary trombones ends in a

John Noxon davidbrubeck.com

John Noxon

flare being sent up to the authority on everything Williams related from models to players. For a young boy growing up on the South Side of Chicago, the studio scene of LA must have seemed a planet away. Now picture not just the young apprentice, but a gifted trombonist and improviser in his own right, and you have John Noxon; someone with first hand experience and fully able to absorb the significance of what has occured. A reluctant, but thorough historian, every Williams devotee is indebted to John’s memory, curiosity and integrity. A master trombonist, apprentice to Earl Williams, and consultant to John Duda at Earl Williams/Calicchio, we are delighted to host John Noxon from “The Craftsmen’s Bench” tm

Williams Shop in Burbank On Mariposa St. davidbriubeck.com

Williams Shop in Burbank
On Mariposa St.

1.) What was it like as a kid in Earl’s Shop? How did you view him and his horns then as opposed to now.
It was a fantastic experience to be around that shop as a kid. The who’s who of Trombone Royalty was in and out of the shop all the time. Dick Nash, Tommy Pederson, Milt Bernahrt, John Prince, Billy Byers, Bob Payne and the list goes on. Almost everyone in LA at the time at least tried a Williams horn at one time or another. Its an amazing experience to see your heros all in one place. I learned to keep my mouth shut and my eyes and ears wide open. Its amazing how much you can learn doing that. Milt and Earl seemed to have a special relationship. Milt lived not far from the shop, I think, because he was in there all the time. He and Earl would experiment on horns and try different things. Lead pipes, crooks, and whatever else they could think of.

Earl William's Son, Bob Courtesy of John Noxon davidbrubeck.com

Earl William’s Son, Bob
Courtesy of John Noxon

Earl’s son Bob worked there daily. Occasionally Earl would bring in extra help. Earl Stickler whom he worked with at the Olds factory was a frequent visitor. Also John Pederson was an employee at various times. He still has a music store in the Burbank area. Pederson Music is a great music store for students and professionals alike. John is a fantastic repair tech with years of experience.

Bert Herrick was also a frequent visitor that hung around Earl’s shop. Of course he was a legendary repair man, mouthpiece, lead pipe maker and horn customizer. Bert was doing custom work long before it became a popular thing to do. Bert also had his own brand of cold cream for slides. Bert also made the first trombone stand I ever saw. It was a drum stand with a cloth (canvas) covered wood cone to fit the inside of the bell.

Earl Williams davidbrubeck.com

Earl Williams

I was taken with the sound of the Williams horns. Such a dark fat round sound like nothing else. The slides were out of this world! Everyone has a gift in life. Earls gift was drawing tubing. Benge Trumpets were just down the street from Williams. Earl used to draw tubing for Benge. Lou Duda was running the Benge factory at that time. (He is John Duda’s father.) John grew up in this business going to work with his Dad Lou. John got serious about horn building at about 12 years old. And he is still at it today. Building brass instruments is almost a lost art. If you look at the big manufacturers the training given is to do one thing. You build, valves, make crooks, spin bells and on. There are not many people like Earl, Bob, Lou, John, & Zig that can make an instrument from start to finish. These guys were and are fantastic craftsman in this respect. There are only a handful of people who can actually build an instrument from start to finish left in the world!

Back to Earl and his horns. The consistency is still amazing to me. They all play like a Williams, some a little different than others but they are Williams. Nothing else plays like that, nothing. I have my original horn from 1969. The slide has never been worked on and its still an 11 on a scale of 1 to 10. If you go back in history and look at some of the Wallace Williams horns from about 1927 to 1938 or so you will not find many of those slides have wear, plating loss, on the inner tubes unless the horn has been injured. This is a testament to Earls ability to draw tubing. I still think Williams horns have a beautiful dark sound full of overtones. Because Earl changed the scale of the horn, moving the bell closer to your face, the slide tubes have to be longer, the partials line up a lot better than other horns I have played.

He also felt the front of the horn should be small and the back large. The large dramatic bell flair lends itself to the “Williams Sound”! I thought the horns were fantastic then and I still do now. I thought Earl was an amazing horn maker, and that feeling has not diminished over the years, only gotten stronger.

Jack Teagarden King of the Jazz Trombone & his WIlliams Trombone davidbrubeck.com

Jack Teagarden
King of the Jazz Trombone
& his WIlliams Trombone

2.) What do you think is so special about Earl’s horns? What have others said?
One of the special things about these horns is the sound; very distinct. The construction of these horns is unbelievably consistent. This was prior to CNC machining and was all done by hand. The scale of the horn makes the partials line up better than most other horns. There is a difference between the material used today vs 60 years ago. There has been much discussion about the properties of the “brass” over the years. In that era Cartridge brass was a 75/25 mix that has changed over the years. Today it is closer to 80/20. These are controversial figures, everyone has an opinion what constitutes “Yellow Brass vs Cartridge Brass”. The brass Earl used was a slightly different mixture than what we use today.

Cartridge brass is a little harder and wears out tooling quicker on the modern machines All of these things contribute to the sound and feel of how a horn responds to the player. When talking about the scale of the horn what I mean is the overall length of the horn and the proportion of bell to slide. A tenor trombone by physics has to be a certain length. What Earl changed was making the slide longer, the tubes are 28.5 inches long, so the bell section can be shorter and it is closer to your face than other horns.

Others talk about the dark Williams sound, the intonation, how the partials line up, how good the slides are. Every one who plays a has an opinion of what makes them so special. Some think they are harder to play and require more effort to play. Chauncy Welsh felt that way. Toward then end of his playing years he went back to a Bach because he felt they were easier to play. Dick Nash played a Bach/Williams for some time. It had a Williams bell and a Bach slide. So lets start with Jack Teagarden, he played any horn some one would pay him to play, but always returned to Williams. From the 1930’s he played the Wallace Williams, then through the 1960’s he played the modern Williams horns. Let go back in history to the Trad Jazz players. Guys like Kid Ory, Jack Teagarden, Dick Nash, Tommy Pederson, Milt Bernhart, Dick “Slyde” Hyde, Jeff Apmadoc, Mike Jamison, John Prince, Bob Olson, Charlie LaRue, Bob Payne, Billy Byers, Bryant Byers, Dickie Wells, Bob Enovoldson, to name a few. Of course myself! LOL!

Carl Fontana and Frank Rosolino davidbrubeck.com

Carl Fontana and Frank Rosolino

3.) It seems the model 6 is the most famous, but you have a soft spot for the model 10, why?
The Model 6 is the most plentiful because it was a .500 bore. I play mostly my model 4’s which are a .490 bore. The Model 7 is a .500 bore with an “F” attachment. The Model 8 is a .520 bore, the Model 9 is a .520 bore with an “F” attachment. And the Model 10 is a .565 bore single trigger horn.

I am not a Bass Trombonist by any means but I like the 10 because it is so easy to play. It takes a whole lot more

Williams Arrowhead counterweight davidbrubeck.com

Williams Arrowhead counterweight

air than the 4, or the 6, but it is the easiest Bass Bone I have ever played. The sound is very dark, very round, but has a sharp edge when you want it to. The single trigger is not to popular these days but two triggers are just to much for my small brain to deal with. The Model 10 that I have is Bob Olson’s horn. He bought it in 1958 after he got the call from Wally Heider to play on the Kenton band. He thought it was for the bass trombone chair, but it really was for the 3rd chair. He told the story that his mistake bringing a bass trombone was what lead to 2 bass bones on the band. He then got a Conn 8H through some deal with Conn and the Kenton band. Bob can be heard on the Live at the Tropicana album. I got the horn when Bob passed a few years ago. I also bought Karl De Karske’s Model 10 a few years ago. Both play very easily and are very light in my opinion, when compared to other horns.

4.) The Japanese are said to believe that certain blades made by masters possess a essence or a soul? You

Wallace-Williams davidbrubeck.com


have said that Earl’s trombones possess the same “katanna”. Is it something you can put in words?
No I don’t think I can put that in words. But after working on horns for about 25 years know you run into that with some horns. Have you ever met a person that when they enter a room you know they are there? You are not looking at the door, you have no visual, or sound cue that they have arrived but somehow you know that person is there. To me its the same kind of thing, you know something or someone special is there. The first time I played my Model 4 I knew that was my horn after about 2 notes. How? I don’t know.

5.) How special a place was LA in it’s brass heyday?
Very special!! At one time in the late 1970’s there were 46 TV shows with live bands! Many recording sessions going on, many live stage plays with orchestras. You could do 3, 4 or 5 calls in a day! It was absolutely amazing everyone was working every day. Today I think there might be half a dozen trombone players making a good living playing full time. I wish I had been born 25 years earlier!

You also had guys like Jimmy Stamp, Claude Gordon, Roy Main for teachers. And these guys were also playing around town. In those days that was how you started out. Your teacher would get you a couple of gigs and if you could play it kind of mushroomed from there. Not like this relentless self promotion you have to do today. There was so much work some for some guys it was like a 9 to 5 job. There is a movie coming out in a little bit called “The Wrecking Crew”. It is being done by Danny Tedesco, his father was probably the number one guitar player in town. He could read anything put in front of him. The movie is about the Rock N Roll scene here in LA. If you google ”The Wrecking Crew” you can find out when it comes out and you can see what the Rock scene was like in LA at that time.

6.) From Movies to Hot Rods to horns, how do you think California effected the DIY aspect of American Culture?
I am not sure, I would guess its the weather that had that effect. Sunny So Cal is a reality. I grew up on the south side of Chicago. I can remember going out as a kid to play in -7 degree weather. No one does anything in the winter in Chicago! But out here you can go to the beach after you went skiing in the morning. Its just kind of non stop. But you will pay a price to live here…..

unnamed-147.) Who were your favorite LA Trombone players, and why?

I have to start off with Dick Nash. Dick is truly amazing as a trombone player. One of the few guys you can put in a symphony, or a Trad Jazz gig, or any other type of performance and he will be absolutely fantastic! He is also a gentleman, and one of the kindest, nicest human beings you will ever encounter in your life. A little story here. I had stopped playing for a few years, and started again. I heard Dick had a Williams 6 for sale. I know he had installed a few notes on this horn the factory forgot. So I called him, he invited my wife and I to his house to check out the horn. He set me up in his cabana by the pool and said play as long as you like, get a good feel for the horn and let me know what you want to do. Ok I played for about 30 minutes came back to the house and he said the price is XXX I said OK. Dick said can you handle that? I said yes, he said if you want to you can pay part now or whatever works for you. I said nope thats OK I’ll take it. He really did not know me from anyone but was so accommodating and kind. That has always been the case when ever he and I interact. He is incredibly gracious and kind. I just cant say enough about him. One of the good guys for sure.

Now, there are so many really great players out here in LA. George Fay was doing the Carol Brunette show when I was a teenager. I recognized him and asked to talk for a minute. He took me into the rehearsal and let me sit next to him. Gave me some tips on playing and was very kind to me.

Enough stories! I loved Tommy Pederson’s music and playing, Milt Bernhart, always around Earl’s shop. John Prince good player great arranger, Billy Byers, Bob Olson, Charlie LaRue, Roy Main, Norm Smith, Gil Adams, Herbie Harper, Lew McCreary, Bob Enovoldson, Joe Howard, Lloyd Ulyate, George Roberts. There are so many I could go on for a long time and I would leave someone out and I would feel bad about that…..

Spike Wallace in  the Paul Whiteman Band davidbrubeck.com

Spike Wallace in the Paul Whiteman Band

8.) Take us on a trip to Hoyt’s Garage; what was it like?
I was invited to Hoyt’s Garage twice when I was stationed at Fort MacArthur in San Pedro Ca. Around 1973. It was a terrifying experience! I was 21 years old and here were all of my heroes in one place! Hoyt Bohannon, Tommy Pederson, Joe Howard, Lloyd Ulyate, Dick Nash, George Roberts, Dick Noel and I don’t remember who else was there. It was a place to have fun playing! The music was incredibly challenging, most written by Hoyt or Tommy. You got assigned a place or part to play. I thought I was safe cause I got a 4th part! Wow I was happy! Then it started! You rotate after each tune. So everyone gets to play first through last by the end of the night. I was definitely a fish out of water there to young, to inexperienced, after you get over who you are standing next to and relax a little bit, not too much, its over! It was fun, exciting terrifying and all of those things you can imagine in about a 3 hour period.

9.) Which players (and when), are the most memorable Williams trombone player?
Kid Ory, Jack Teagarden, Dick Nash, Tommy Pederson, Milt Bernhart, Slyde Hyde, Jeff Apmadoc, Mike Jamison, John Prince, Bob Olson, Charlie LaRue, Bob Payne, Billy Byers, Bryant Byers, Dickie Wells, Bob Enovoldson, Carl Fontana.

Tell us about Jay Armstrong’s dream, and how you became involved?
I know nothing about it, I have spoken to Jay a couple of times about his tenure with Williams Trombones. But I was not involved when he had the company. That interview can be read on the Williams trombone Facebook page.
I had always wanted to do a website about Williams trombones and never got around to doing it. Troy Smart in North Carolina offered to put it all on Facebook! I gave Troy everything I had and he has done a fantastic job of assembling all of my horrible notes and scribbles.

11.) What are some other horns you have admired?
Well I have never met a 2B I did not like! Some are better than others but they are all good! My buddy, and brother

Noxon's Collection, In Part

Noxon’s Collection, In Part

from another mother, Barry Kierce has an unbelievable collection of horns. There is a 2B that some one customized years ago. It has shamrocks engraved on the bell, and it’s a .491, .491 bore horn. He also has an 8H that’s out of this world. Along with a number of 2 and 3 digit serial number Bach horns that are just excellent. I also just love the old Conn 44H’s. The art deco looks cool and they just sing in the upper register. If I didn’t have a Williams 4 that 44H might be a good horn to do lead, jazz and some small group things with.

Jack Teagarden King of The Jazz Trombone with Louis Armstrong

Jack Teagarden
King of The Jazz Trombone with Louis Armstrong

Also the “new” Williams horns that John Duda has been building for the last 12 or so years are just fantastic. I like the new ones better than my old ones! I think that is just because my horns are 50 years and pretty worn out. But John has done a tremendous job building these horns. Mine were used to sort out the tooling and figure out what to do and how to make them. John is one of very few people who can build a horn start to finish. This has become a specialized business. You make crooks, you draw tubing, you spin bells and that’s all you do. John can do all of the different functions to build brass instruments. Not many of those kind of guys left in the world today.

c. 2015 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved. davidbrubeck.com

Images courtesy of John Noxon

Jim Self
John Van Houten
Demondrae Thurman

Charlie Vernon
James Markey
Bill Reichenbach
Stefan Schulz

Canadian BrassPress_Photo
Boston Brass
Mnozil Brass

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

“7 Positions” tm, Hosts Operatic Bass and Triple Threat, Dan Satterwhite

images-4From the ground floor of The Dallas Brass, to the pits of opera orchestras, Dan Satterwhite has been a triple threat: bass trombone, tuba and euphonium-later cimbasso. While his first love was euphonium, early experiences hearing Charlie Vernon convinced him to take up the bass trombone as his fist instrument. As he explored chamber music, tuba became an important step in Mr. Satterwhite’s musical development. From off broadway productions to orchestras, Satterwhite is now equally at home with four valves as he is with “Seven Positions” tm. Read on to discover how to hold down all the low brass chairs…..

1. What was it like to play in the Dallas Brass? How long were you with the group, and what were your observations about the group’s transition from bass trombone bone to tuba?
First of all, thank you for asking me to do this! I have read many of your other interviews with great interest, and I’m honored that you are including me.

Playing with Dallas Brass was definitely a highlight of my career, and opened a lot of doors for me musically and professionally speaking. I played as a full-time member for six years in the nineties, but my relationship with the group goes back almost to its beginning. When I was a graduate student at North Texas State in 1983, my colleague John Wasson (the original bass trombonist of the group) introduced me to Michael Levine, the leader. We became friends, and I was given opportunities to sub frequently with the group in the early days, often playing weddings, Sunday brunches, corporate events, and the like. Mike always had a vision of Dallas Brass being a concert group, like Canadian or Empire, but with its own identity. By force of will, hard work, and determination, he made it happen!

Dallas Brass at Carnegie Hall davidbrubeck.com

Dallas Brass at Carnegie Hall

Years later, after several members left to form their own group Rhythm and Brass, John Wasson found himself back in the group, playing both bass trombone and tuba. He committed to one year, and when he left, Mike called me and asked if I thought I could play tuba with the group. At that time, I owned a small tuba for Broadway doubling, and could get around on it pretty well, but playing tuba with a group like that was a whole different thing! I asked him to send me the music, and after a couple of weeks, I agreed to do it. It was sort of like one of those nightmares people talk about…if you told me in July of 1994 that three months later, I would be standing onstage in Carnegie Hall with a tuba in my hands in front of the New York Pops, I would have said you were crazy!

But so it went, and I had some incredible times playing with great musicians that remain great friends to this day. As for the transition from bass trombone to tuba, that happened when John Wasson first left the group. It is undeniable that there are advantages to each, but for a group that plays such a wide variety music, including a lot of early jazz, tuba is a better choice. John and I were both able to bring both instruments to the group, which is even better.

2. Where do you see the bass trombone and euphonium best being utilized in chamber music?
I think the bass trombone is best used as the American Brass Quintet does…on early music arrangements and more contemporary music that was written specifically with bass trombone in mind. Of course, there are people out there who can play most anything written for quintet on bass trombone, but having done both, much quintet literature is a LOT easier on tuba. The same can be said for euphonium. My favorite chamber use of euphonium is either on the bottom of a brass quartet, where the low voice is more in the bass vocal register, or as the fifth voice in a sextet, like the Bohme.

3. At the 2013 ITF you found yourself on stage with distinguished company. How did it come about, and what was it like?
That was a great experience that came about in just about 24 hours. Along with Charlie Vernon, Doug Yeo, Jim Markey, and Paul Pollard, Zachary Bond of the Malaysian Philharmonic was scheduled to play an arrangement of Ring Cycle themes for five bass trombones, but he had to bow out at the last minute. I was in the right place at the right time, and I was fortunate to be asked to play. We had one rehearsal (mostly storytelling, with a quick run through), and that night I found myself onstage in front of hundreds of trombone players with the living legends of the bass trombone! It was an amazing evening of bass trombone playing, with Paul, Jim and Charlie each playing a half hour portion of recital music. I was honored to play a little at the end.

Denson Paul Pollard, Dan Satterwhite, James Markey, Doug Yeo and Charles Vernon at ITF 2013 davidbrubeck.com

Denson Paul Pollard, Dan Satterwhite, James Markey, Doug Yeo and Charles Vernon at ITF 2013

4. What attracts you to the cimbasso, and how is it put to best use in literature and what special technical adjustments does it demand?
I first played the cimbasso when I was asked to play Andrea Bocelli’s Statue of Liberty Concert with the New Jersey Symphony. Steve Johns of the New York City Opera was kind enough to loan me his fine Rudi Meinl F cimbasso, and it was a lot of fun! I had subsequent opportunities that summer to play it with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, subbing for Steve, on a couple of concert opera performances and a recording with Renee Fleming. Right as I was moving to Florida, Palm Beach Opera was doing an all Verdi season, and I was asked to play. I used that as my reasoning to buy my own instrument, and I found a great deal on a similar Rudi Meinl. Unbelievably, it paid for itself that first year! Italian opera (played very frequently in this area) is where cimbasso is most commonly and effectively used. It adds a great, weighty contrabass voice to the trombone section, and is also used alone, as support to the bass section. I think it’s important to understand these different roles, and to be able to make a variety of sounds on the instrument to fill these roles. Of course, the cimbasso can be heard in a wide variety of situations, from film scores to chamber music to jazz orchestra. Mattis Cederberg of the WDR Big Band is one of the greatest ambassadors of the instrument, and does fantastic things with it.

Playing the instrument can be a challenge, as you have to have the valve facility of a tuba player, but you have to blow it much more like a trombone. It works best (for me) with a smallish tuba mouthpiece. The bell also sticks a lot farther out from your head than the bass trombone does, so you have to be aware of how much sound you are making.

Ed Kleinhammer and Dan Satterwhite davidbrubeck.com

Ed Kleinhammer and Dan Satterwhite

5. You have a special relationship with Charlie Vernon. How does the conceptual Chicago school, which he embodies, fare today amongst other technical approaches to the trombone?

I have had the privilege of knowing Charlie for nearly forty years, as he was on faculty at Brevard Music Center when I was a high school euphonium player there. Listening to him practice there was a major influence on me and my decision to become a bass trombone player. The sound he makes is a big part of the sound I have in my head when I play. All of this, of course comes from Arnold Jacobs, who instilled the idea of Song and Wind in Charlie, and later in me. I think the basic tenets of that approach are present in most good players, whether they realize it or not. Take a great relaxed breath, and flood your brain with the sound you want to make on every note you play. The rest is often just terminology or semantics. These days, Charlie is very big on eliminating “dwa”or “twa” between the notes in his students’ playing, coupling a great, steady airstream with a quick, relaxed slide motion. For me, the conceptual Chicago school embodies great fundamental skill on the instrument, and in an ensemble, having great equal balance and stylistic approach, and a unified idea of intonation, especially among the inner voices. The role of great, supremely confident players (who were also great teachers) from top to bottom in the Chicago Symphony: Herseth, Cichowicz, Friedman, Crisafulli, Kleinhammer, Jacobs…cannot be understated. Those of us who grew up steeped in this brass tradition can’t help but pass it on. For me, the musical leadership of Herseth and the unbelievable sound of Kleinhammer were especially important.

6. What are the highlights and challenges of playing Operatic Literature?
The highlights are playing some of the most beautiful music ever written. I think everyone who spends time in an opera orchestra finds themselves positively influenced by the singing going on up onstage! The challenges include coming in correctly when your part has been tacet for five, ten, or thirty minutes, and you’re caught up listening to the great music going on around you. Knowing the music and where your part comes in is mandatory. Counting alone is highly overrated! Also, there is often a fine line in playing loud enough to serve the music correctly without getting yelled at by the conductor. Conductors are usually in the worst possible place to properly judge balance between the stage and the pit. It is refreshing to have conductors who trust the musicians to do the right thing.

images-37. There have been a great deal of advances in bass trombone valves in recent years. How do you view the current offerings? Which do you like best?
I have pretty much tried, if not owned just about everything available. Early in my career, rotary valves were all that was available, and you hoped to get a set that played openly in the low register. I enjoyed playing Thayer valves when they first came out, and later on Edwards trombones. However, I never liked the action of the valves, and the second valve always felt spongy to me. Hagmann valves play very well, but in my experience can be very high maintenance. About 20 years ago, I got a great deal on a Yamaha 613H and I was amazed at how well the standard slightly oversize rotary valves responded in the low register. The horn was also noticeably lighter to hold than the Edwards I had at the time, and I began playing this instrument all the time. Shortly after, Dallas Brass became a Yamaha Performing Ensemble, and I was issued another 613H to take on the road. My tuba has always been a Yamaha 822 F, so since then, I have played Yamaha trombones and tubas exclusively. I became a Yamaha Performing Artist last year, and still enjoy rotary valves on a Xeno 830 bass trombone. The return by many long time axial flow players (including Joe Alessi, Gerry Pagano and Jim Markey), to improved rotary valves like Edwards, Rotax, Greenhoe and Yamaha is interesting. Regardless, trombonists today are fortunate to have such an incredible choice of great instrument manufacturers, both large and boutique, from which to find an instrument that can be their voice.

Miami Brass davidbrubeck.com

Miami Brass

8. What is the best
bass trombone,
tuba &
playing you have heard?

For many years, the best bass trombone playing I heard came from Charlie Vernon. He always combines a big beautiful rich sound with incredible technique and facility. I always admired Steve Norrell’s playing as well. Of course, there are a lot of great players who are catching up fast! These days, students have so many great recordings that they can access to help form their own concept of sound. Jim Markey, Paul Pollard, Gerry Pagano, Randy Hawes, Blair Bollinger…

For tuba, I always loved Roger Bobo’s great musicality. Arnold Jacobs, of course. Later, I listened a lot to Warren Deck and Gene Pokorny. Now days, there are MANY great players that have elevated solo tuba playing to be on par with any other instrument. The same can be said for euphonium. That was my first instrument, and except for help from my high school band director, I was basically self taught. I never heard a solo euphonium recording until I got to college and had switched my focus to bass trombone. Again, today there are MANY great players out there…


9. The best playing of each you have done?
Bass trombone: I am very proud of the playing I did early on as an orchestral player in Santiago, Chile. We had a recording engineer who would slip me a cassette of all of our concerts, and we did some great things. These days, while some things are getting harder with age, I feel like I am finally figuring out some other aspects of my playing! That helps me immensely in keeping on my toes as a teacher, and a lifelong student.

Tuba: I am very proud of the Nutcracker recording we did in Dallas Brass when I was in the group. It really challenged me and helped me feel like my tuba playing was on par with my bass trombone playing.

Euphonium: I had a run of a few years where I had the opportunity to play a lot of the tenor tuba orchestral literature, including Heldenleben, Don Quixote, and a lot of performances of The Planets. I don’t play euphonium much anymore, and I miss it.

c. 2015 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved davidbrubeck.com

Image credits: Miami Brass, Lynn.edu and Dan Satterwhite

Interested in more “Seven Positions” tm Interviews?
Charlie Vernon
James Markey
Chris Brubeck
Doug Yeo
Jeremy Morrow
Tom Everett
Gerry Pagano
Ben van Dijk
Randall Hawes
Denson Paul Pollard
Thomas Matta
Fred Sturm
Bill Reichenbach
Massimo Pirone
Erik Van Lier
Jennifer Wharton
Matyas Veer

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off