Happy New Year from “1385” tm to 2017, With Mannix, Conant and Thompkins, The Tenor Trombone is in Great Hands!

Ken Thompkins

Please begin watching at 15:00 minutes

2. What are two things you remember learning from each of your major teachers?
Frank Crisafulli was and still is a great influence on my approach to the instrument. One major lesson from Mr. C was that no matter what the slide has to navigate the air flow must be beautiful like the bow of a stringed instrument.

The other important lesson he taught me how to acknowledge progression and accomplishments. As a student striving to become like your idols on the horn it is easy to constantly feel dismayed with your trombone playing. When I studied with Mr. Crisafulli he was over seventy years old and his wisdom was always present. He knew that my striving for perfection was a hindrance to my progression. I remember his telling me several times “Stop trying to be perfect” Such valuable advice that I really could not comprehend because I desperately wanted to be perfect and succeed.

Eric Carlson was another major influence on my playing. He is a fabulous trombonist and I really enjoyed hearing him play alone and in the Philadelphia Orchestra. Mr. Carlson really impressed upon me the importance of great fundamentals. Having fluidity and great even sound in every register of the instrument was a major goal. Working on orchestral excerpts was also a major focus of my studies with Eric Carlson. He stressed the basics of great orchestral performance and how to practice the excerpts.

Another trombonist that I loved hearing was Glen Dodson. Mr. Dodson had a beautiful, clear sound that was captivating.

3. What are your favorite orchestral trombone solos?
My favorite pieces to perform with the orchestra are the solos in Mahler 3, and Sibelius 7. In these solos a musician has the opportunity to show a great range of expression that is not typical in the orchestral repertoire. I always love performing any of works by Mahler, Shostakovich and Bruckner.

4. A life of orchestral playing can be completely musically satisfying . How do you motivate yourself to accomplish additional musical project and what are your favorites?
I get a lot of musical satisfaction from playing in the orchestra. There is always something I can enjoy from playing in the orchestra – I am often inspired by my colleagues to play better and to strive for a new level of expression. I really enjoy getting outside of the orchestra and exploring new solo repertoire and continuing to push for development. The ability to completely let your own voice be heard in a solo setting is extremely satisfying. Performing recitals and in chamber settings has really added another dimension to my musicianship.

Read more Ken Thompkins here….

Abbe Conant

4. Can you discuss the development of your “out-of-the-box” approach to soloing-almost a new genre, “micro-opera”, with sets, plot and electronic accompaniment to your singing, acting and trombone playing?
It all started when my composer/husband, William Osborne, couldn’t find a soprano willing to sing one of his music theater pieces, called Winnie, a character portrait from Samuel Beckett’s play, Happy Days. He was originally going to have me play the trombone solos dressed as Winnie’s husband, Willie and a soprano would sing Winnie.

He said, ok you have a year to learn how to sing and work up this piece. Now, I hardly had a speaking voice, let alone a singing voice! But serendipity brought me to a wonderful voice teacher I met in the dorm at a music festival in Switzerland. It turned out she also lived in Munich and she offered to take up the challenge.

It took weeks before I could stop making an embouchure when I sang!

I had to learn to back off a lot in in terms of support so as not to force my voice and wreck my vocal chords. She was patient but relentless and taught me classic bel canto technique. She told me I was a dramatic soprano and that if I worked hard I could be an opera singer. My goal was specific and she brought me to the point where I could sing this difficult 45-minute-long piece and play the tricky trombone part as well, not to mention acting Beckett…a year later we premiered Winnie in Rome.

I should mention that I could not have done this without the Alexander Technique. It helps a person learn new things. One is then able to transcend preconceptions and assumptions about how to do something and truly open to the new. It allows you to be a clean slate. After Winne,came The Miriam Trilogy, a 90-minute program without pause that included: pantomime, having clamps come down on my wrists, and baring a breast for 25min…among many other things.

After Miriam came Street Scene for the Last Mad Soprano—about a homeless woman who thinks she has an audition for the Met. Then came Cybeline, an odd combination of Schubert, Electronics and cartoons. Cybeline is a cyborg who tires to prove to the scientists that she is human by being a talk show host. Wacky.

Aletheia is the new one we just premiered at the ITF 2017. She is in a cage the whole piece. She is an opera singer who doesn’t want to sing for the patrons and who searches for transcendence thought truly being herself and living her truth.

In God’s Eyes, by Abbie Conant

In God’s eyes
I see my body
Running wild into the sea

In God’s eyes
I see a river
Sparkling dark over the rocks

In God’s eyes
I see a spring
Erupting sweet from red earth

In God’s arms sleep our mothers
And in their arms we sleep

Come young soul and drink from the spring
Come old friend and swim in the stream
Dance my feet and twirl into smoke,
Whirl my body back to the sea, the sea.

Read more Abbie Conant here…..

Natalie Mannix

5. What did you learn recording a CD? What would you do the same and differently next time?
I learned that it is nearly impossible to get everything perfect, and that is ok! I am hard on myself when listening to takes. It is especially difficult in a dry recording studio where you hear every little thing. If I record another CD, I would record in a nice hall with good acoustics. It would allow me to enjoy the music more and direct the focus away from my critical thoughts. As I went, I got better at thinking less and focusing on the music more. What I set out to do was get people excited about new composers and new music. To me, that is the most important and rewarding part of recording and performing.


6. What has your rich career in the military added to your resilience and outlook that you emphasize to students?
There were many days in the Navy Band that I struggled with fatigue, the weather or the physical demands. At the end of the day though, I always tried to remember how grateful I was to be able to play trombone for a living. After all, how many people can say that? I try to carry that gratitude with me in every part of my life. It keeps things in perspective. We may find ourselves on some pretty terrible gigs (I once marched dressed like a clown in a rainy parade through Newark, NJ!), but we are still lucky to do what we want for a living. On the same note, I hate to see students take the trombone so seriously that they are brought to tears or depression. Being grateful and remembering the original joy in making music can help with that mindset.

Read more Natalie Mannix here

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