Miami’s Own Duo Brubeck, Live in concert at Christ United Methodist Church
Sunday, November 5th 2017 4:00 pm (4845 n.e. 25th ave. | fort lauderdale, fl 33308 )
Suggested donation, $5 adults, $3 seniors-Children are free!
DUO BRUBECK, featuring Mitch Farber, is an exciting and innovative jazz duo which celebrates the rich tradition of guitar and trombone duos, with a twist! From international music festivals to the finest local venues, Duo Brubeck has been featured live and in recordings and videos. Join them for an afternoon of sizzling standards and creative cool jazz!
Farber has toured and recorded with numerous greats including Julio Iglesias and now serves on the jazz faculty at the University of Miami. Brubeck was the first three-time all American college musician and is believed to be the only soloist to have a appeared at the international conferences for trombone, trumpet, tuba and euphonium. His ‘Stereograms’ have been published, recorded and performed around the globe and the approach is reminiscent of jazz vocalist Bobby McFerrin, alternating between melody and accompanying bass lines in a seamless manner.
Please join us at Christ Church for a special concert featuring the music of jazz greats Gershwin, Corea and Ellington, The Beatles, Stevie Wonder, and the American Songbook. All proceeds beyond the most basic concert expenses will go directly to the United Methodist Concert fund.
Duo Brubeck at Christ Church Ft. Lauderdale 11-5-17 4:00 pm
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A life of keen observation and experience may lead to wisdom, take Matthew Guilford. Orchestral aplomb and soloist expertise yield to teamwork and heart-felt finesse. As others seek to deepen existing trails of chamber music, Guilford emerges with a powerhouse brass trio, and recording. Join “Seven Positions” on a trip from a garage in Boston to the Kennedy Center in Washington D. C.. Enjoy….
1. How did you develop an interest in the Russian language, and where has it taken you?
I attended public schools in Middleboro, MA where I grew up. At that time, two foreign languages were offered, French and Russian. While I did study French for a year or two, I enrolled in Russian language studies from 8th grade through my senior year. The Russian teacher, John Sullivan, was the head of the foreign languages department as well as one of the finest instructors of any course I have ever taken. His consistency of approach and high expectations of his students made a deep and lasting impression on my academic career and helped to shape my own teaching style.
Although I have graduated with two degrees from New England Conservatory, my undergraduate studies began at Boston University where I majored in music performance with a minor concentration in Russian language. You have to remember that the world was a very different place at that time, the early 1980’s. The cold war was being waged and the iron curtain was firmly in place. Government jobs requiring Russian language skills were abundant and I could see a possible departure in that direction if I were to change course. My preparation under John Sullivan was adequate enough to place me into a more advanced section of Russian studies, but by the second semester of my sophomore year, the writing was on the wall that I would be transferring to N.E.C., so my formal studies in Russian ended there.
Since joining the National Symphony Orchestra, I have had the opportunity to tour Russian on two occasions, 1993 and this past March of 2017. On both trips, my skills were adequate enough to hold basic conversations, order meals, hail a taxi, and so on. My son was able to join me on this latest tour of Moscow and St. Petersburg, and those language skills certainly came in handy as we did a fair amount of sight-seeing and touring apart from the orchestra.
2. How did your mom come to love the trombone so much?
My parents were not trained musicians per se, but they each showed a deep love of music that was perceptible to me from an early age. Music in one form or another could usually be heard from somewhere in our home. As a child in the late 1960’s, I remember that they formed a folk group with a few friends and would have rehearsals in our living room covering hit tunes by groups such as The Kingston Trio and Peter, Paul & Mary.
There were a number of jazz albums in our home as well, mostly swing era or Dixieland in style. Arnold McKenzie. My mother loved to sing along and still does. The sounds of Tommy Dorsey were no stranger to me at a young age. Buddy Morrow’s ballad playing as well. Truthfully, she heard a trombonist in a band that played weddings and concerts in the Middleboro, MA area when she was a young girl. The trombonist in that group was Arnold McKenzie, a trombonist whom I never had the opportunity to meet but who’s playing certainly made an impression on her. You might say that Mr. McKenzie was equally responsible for my career!
Of course, she went on to become an even bigger fan of bass trombone playing! Whenever she attends one of my concerts, she tells me that she can always pick my sound out from the rest of the orchestra. That’s a good thing, right?!
3. Who are your influences?
I grew up in a working class family in a blue collar New England town. The masculine influences in my early life were from men who worked with their hands. My grandfather built most of his home by himself and grew enough produce in his garden to feed a family of seven. My father was a diesel mechanic in the Coast Guard, a career firefighter and could fix just about anything. That I became an artist and academic…it is so far removed from their lives, but their heroism and self-sufficiency made a lasting impact.
Jerry Shaw was not my first trombone teacher, but he was probably the most important teacher. My first few years of playing were with Luther “Sonny” Churchill, who gave me the basics of slide positions and technique. My parents bought me a nearly new Conn bass trombone a few years later (age 13), and that is the time that I began my lessons with Jerry Shaw. Jerry had graduated from music school in Lowell, MA, took lessons with John Coffey (Boston Symphony 1941-’52), played in the U.S. Army Band overseas, AND played bass trombone as well, the same model Conn as mine, the 73H.
A more dedicated trombone teacher I have never met, and while I would like to imagine that Jerry favored me, I am quite sure that he gave equal attention to all of his many students. Let me put it this way: he taught me how to play the trombone in such a correct and thorough fashion that I constantly ask myself when working with my own students, “What would Jerry say now?”. The details of my lessons with Jerry are many and honestly deserve an entire article of their own.
Finally, and this is a “what” rather than a “who”, an early and important influence was my participation in team sports. Around the same time that I blew my first notes on a trombone, I was involved in sports. In no particular order, I was a team member of many a swim, baseball, football and basketball team. When you are able to ascertain what your own personal strengths and weaknesses may be, you gain the knowledge of how you can best help your team. There is a direct correlation to orchestral playing in this regard, and I am convinced that my early connections to team sports have guided me toward being a better team player.
I have coined a term, virtuoso team player, that might be expressed best as a meshing of personal excellence and artistry in a seamless fashion into the greater good of an ensemble. This has nothing whatsoever to do with virtuosity as commonly conceived vis-a-vis solo artists, their technical prowess, pyrotechnics and so on. Imagine that same level of skill directed not outwardly/individually as a soloist must, but inwardly to the team of orchestral colleagues. There is a virtuosity in the milli-seconds of reaction required in every orchestral rehearsal and concert that is very much the equal of the soloists aim, but it creates a different kind of internal energy that fuels the ensemble.
4. Aside from all of the excellence in common, what distinctiveness have you noticed in some of the different orchestras with which you have performed?
My first tenured position was with the San Francisco Opera orchestra. While I had played a few operas as a student and freelance musician in Boston, I had not previously played in an orchestra who’s primary function was operatic performance. The first opera of my first season was Verdi’s Falstaff, and what struck me immediately was the style in which the orchestra played Verdi. Many of the sounds and interpretations I was hearing from my colleagues were not indicated in the parts or score, but were born of experience and years and years of Verdi performances. I began to latch on to this concept and by the time we began Othello in the middle of that season, I was clued into the Verdi vibe. The same could be said of the way they performed Puccini, Leoncavallo, Boito and Mascagni.
When I arrived at my current position with the National Symphony after a couple of seasons playing opera in San Francisco, the difference of styles, operatic vs. symphonic took a period of adjustment for me. Opera orchestras, for the most part, are serving the needs of the stage action. When a soprano decides to linger on a high C, or a bass may be fighting a cold, or it takes Seigmund a little longer to pull the sword out of the stone one night, the orchestra must have the flexibility to react to those very real possibilities.
Symphony orchestras have more of a luxury of serving themselves in their repertoire. Sure, they need to be flexible and sensitive to soloists, choruses, narrators and so on, but not to the extent that opera orchestras must. I find it very satisfying and necessary that my orchestra typically plays a few operas every season. It improves our reflexes and makes us a stronger ensemble.
I have been fortunate in that several orchestras in the USA, and at least one foreign, have asked me to join them as a guest or extra performer. The closest association that I have with any of these organizations at present continues to be with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. In recent years, I have performed with them in Boston’s Symphony Hall, Carnegie Hall and at their summer home, Tanglewood. The fact that they continue to have me as a guest is immensely gratifying to say the least, especially given my history with that orchestra going back to 1986 when I began subbing with them as an NEC student. I feel that I truly learned how to play in an orchestra through those early experiences as an extra player, sitting beside my teachers Norman Bolter and Douglas Yeo.
5. What is your secret to a great legato? As the years have gone by, the main take-away for me is the realization that great legato playing is much more about air and much less about tongue. As beginner trombonists, after learning where to place the slide we are taught the two basic tongue strokes for “TA” (non-legato) and “DA” (legato). A usual starting point for introducing legato tongue to a student involves using the “DA” articulation on every note in a legato passage to help foster consistency of response and familiarize the student with a new tonguing concept. That is all fine and good.
The next step toward great legato playing (and the several steps that follow) should, in my opinion, gradually relieve the tongue of its duties as legato enforcer. We already have several means of legato playing that use no tongue whatsoever: natural slurs within the same position/overtone series, cross-position playing that ascends or descends (cross-grain), and deploying and releasing the valve(s) are the most common. Many players, myself included, use no tongue within the same partial but are able to achieve a clean legato by means accurate slide technique and an unwavering air stream.
I have a graphic that I use with my students which illustrates my idea of articulation differences based largely upon the decibel meter.
Graphic unresponsive, please check back later.
Using the above graphic, substitute decibels with the following articulations:
• 0 – 50 uses “TAH” tongue
• 50 is tenuto
• 51 – 99 uses “DAH” tongue
• 100 is glissando
For purposes of legato, 51 would be the hardest and heaviest form of legato tongue. As you move in the direction of 100, by necessity you will use less legato tongue. That gives you exactly 49 possibilities of legato before you hit glissando. That stands in stark contrast to the 1 “DAH” legato tongue I learned to master as a young trombonist. Some students are visual learners, and the articulation meter is often on the white board of my teaching studio at the University of Maryland as a reminder of the spectrum of possibilities in the world of articulation.
6. How does having so many great military players in DC change the musical scene, as compared with Boston or San Francisco?
It makes for one helluva trombone ensemble! The Washington Trombone Ensemble was formed a number of years by U.S. Army Band solo trombonist Sam Woodhead and has been going strong ever since. They have made frequent appearances at the American Trombone Workshop and have produced a few recordings as well, including The Road Not Taken. All branches of the elite D.C. service bands are represented within the ensemble and the wealth of talent and ability is truly astounding.
Aside from trombone players, military musicians all kinds help to make DC a very rich musical destination. While one can listen to their concerts for free at venues such as the U.S. Capitol, Wolf Trap or the National Mall, you can also hear them subbing with the National Symphony and National Opera at the Kennedy Center.
7. How did you become interested in Christopher Brubeck’s Bass Trombone Concerto? What are your favorite aspects of the piece, and presenting it?
I was first made aware of the piece when Douglas Yeo performed it with the Boston Pops. A few years later, one of the NSO staffers (who knew Chris personally) suggested that the work be performed on an NSO Pops series. Marvin Hamlisch was the NSO Pops conductor at that time (2005), and I performed the concerto on three separate evenings with him and Barbara Cook as the headliner.
If you listen to Chris’ recording of the piece, you will hear the style and energy that he brings to his performance. A performer needs to be well versed in many musical styles in order to pull off a successful performance, including jazz, rock, funk and classical. It also is demanding with respect to range, so bring your high chops as well as your pedal notes.
It’s a concerto that does not take itself too seriously, and I appreciate that. The audience reaction when I played it was quite warm and receptive, and I think that the pops format surrounding those performances was appropriate for such am eclectic work. While it is certainly a demanding piece from a soloist’s standpoint, it is not demanding on the audience and that is important.
8. The brass trio is an unusual genre, and you have found success there. What makes it tick, and how can a bass trombonist improve his odds of succeeding in the trio format?
The brass trio is a wonderful genre and I am incredibly fortunate in having my University of Maryland colleagues Chris Gekker (trumpet) and Greg Miller (horn) as chamber music partners. Our recording from 2010 may be the only stand-alone recording featuring works solely for brass trio. There are other recordings that include some trios as part of a musical compilation, but a pure brass trio recording is indeed a rare bird.
That recording project required several intense sessions and was simultaneously exhilarating, educational and fatiguing. There are three distinctive voices, there is nowhere to hide and there are precious few rests to be found in most of the literature for that ensemble. Those are the facts. I am sure that one of the main reasons we do not see more brass trios on the concert circuit has to do more with the fatigue factor than anything else.
The bass trombone, and I may be slightly biased in this opinion, can be a better fit than tenor as the bottom voice on much of the trio repertoire. I played tenor on one or two of the works on the Maryland Brass Trio recording and the rest were performed on bass. As a timbre, the bass trombone provides a thick base to the group and helps widen the separation between it’s own sound and that of the horn. It is that dissimilarity that makes the group sound a bit more colorful. With regard to range, I have not yet found any works containing notes too high for an accomplished bass trombonist.
9. Can you put into words the educational, musical and personal influence of Norman Bolter on your life?
Before I answer that question directly, I must state that Norman Bolter had a profound influence on me well before we had even entered into a student-teacher relationship. As a Christmas gift in 1980, I was given the Empire Brass album (yes, in vinyl) Russian Brass featuring the brass quintets of Victor Ewald. It has since become a revered classic recording, but at that time it was the very cutting edge of brass chamber music performance. Every player was a virtuoso. Being a trombonist, my ear bent in the direction of the trombonist, Norman Bolter. While I was most likely too young to understand what I heard in his playing that appealed to me at that time, I can say that it spoke to me and drew me in to learn more.
When I began my undergraduate studies at Boston University in the fall of 1982, I would walk to Norman’s brownstone home in Brookline, MA each week passing John F. Kennedy’s birthplace along the walk from my freshman dormitory. His home was warm, inviting and I felt very comfortable in those surroundings for most of our lessons, as others sometimes took place at Symphony Hall.
When I came to my first lesson, I could articulate “Tah” and “Dah” quite well indeed, but my attacks were limited to those two mainstays. He worked with me a great deal on articulation of all kinds, from the most basic of a tenuto up to lightening fast multiple tongue. Analogies played a big role in this methodology. His imagination is without bounds. For articulations, he imagined for me a painter’s palette of attacks from which to select, such as 10 kinds of staccato, 5 marcato, 4 tenuto….legato had the most possibilities from the hardest “Dah” tongue to an absolute glissando.
Norman also worked with me a great deal on other basics such as range-building and intervals. I tend to push both of those basic disciplines firmly on my own young (and not-so-young) students as well. I think that the time put into both of those endeavors tend to make for a more secure and fearless player. We did not spend an exorbitant amount of time on orchestral repertoire in the first two years of our three years together. My main take-away from Norman was a very firm underpinning in all of the basics of trombone playing viewed though a wide lens. The world of music-making and trombone playing was expanded though him.
Those who have studied with Norman over the years will probably agree that his fertile imagination and sometimes ethereal approach to teaching may have caught them off guard at one point or another. I was a sponge to take in whatever he had to offer, from the basics of articulation to creating a sound color that was purple. He is responsible for many of the tools in my trombone tool chest.
Since this question asked me directly about just one of my teachers, I think it fair to at least mention my two years of study with Douglas Yeo and my final year of study with John Swallow at NEC. In a nutshell: Mr. Yeo taught me how to win and keep bass trombone positions in major US symphony orchestras, and Mr. Swallow tipped everything I had learned to previous 5 years upside down and asked me to reassemble it all in my own authentic voice.
c. 2017 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved. www.davidbrubeck.com
Images courtesy of Matthew Guilford and Dennis Bubert.
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.
More than any other single human-being, tubist Chester Schmitz etched Jabba the Hutt in our collective consciousness. His tuba embodied the villan for John Williams, but the real man seems more infused by Dietrich Fischer Dieskau than Jabba musically; and embodies Christ more than the force spiritually. Perhaps this Star Wars solo was among the things that inspired the great composer John Williams to write a tuba concerto for Mr. Schmitz. Whether Tubby The Tuba, or a laundry list of great accomplished solos, Schmitz caressed the unwieldy mass of brass to soloistic heights with the heart of an artist. From his perch as retired principal tubist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Pops,he has even more to add, with and without the tuba….”The Fourth Valve” tm is delighted to share his rich musical legacy, enjoy!
1. What are your most memorable moments with John Williams and his music?
Of course, top of the list was the world premiere of the Tuba Concerto he dedicated to me in 1985. Also, he wrote some nice solos…..Reivers, 1980 his first concert as pops conductor, Jabba the Hutt, and just plain good parts. We rocked in the 80’s with John. It’s all out there in record land…..
2. What are the best solo settings for tuba you have found? What makes them effective?
Tuba solos emanating from within the orchestra are the best. Lots of sounding colors in the ‘accompaniment!’
3. What three things are most important to you?
Which 3 things are important to me?
First, Jesus. Second, Jesus loves me. Third, Jesus has saved me and given me eternal life, because He loves me and died for me, rose from the dead for me, and will come to take me home with Himself.
There is nothing comparable to Jesus. He is the reason I left the great BSO!
4. Who were your biggest musical inspirations? What did you learn from each?
Rostropovich, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, and Richter. I listened and studied them during my college years. Eventually I performed with Fischer-Dieskau, heard Richter play 2 recitals live, and played many concerts with Rostropovich. Magnificent musicians!
5. How important is a warm up, and how has yours changed over the years?
Playing properly is almost infinitely more important than requiring a specific warm-up.
Lip slurs are everything, when done properly.
6. How did you develop such a beautiful, non-intrusive articulation?
If that be so, good…and thank you. Proper preparation to play and understanding of breathing. I have put up 3 FB posts on that very subject within the last few days.
7. What reflections on a life in music do you have for a young person starting out today? Would you do anything differently?
If that young person desires to have a career in music, AND…….this is huge…….God has given that young person the TALENT and ABILITY to make it into that fairly small elite at or near the TOP, than go all out!
When I began the tuba, I practiced 4 to 12 hours every day for 6 months, then, all my formative years, I listened to good classical music day and night. (Yes, while I slept!) I love good music!
8. How do you change your approach from solo to chamber to orchestral?
Different instruments for different orchestral music, including the euphonium and contrabass trombone, sizes, keys, etc. I have played cello parts in a string quartet with 2 violins and a viola (bless them!) and the challenge to not overwhelm is fun.
9. How do you see the tuba?
Some artists get to make music through their voice. That is simple. A violin and a cello are also simpler. To sing through 30 feet of metal is a challenge those folks will never encounter, yet the music must be just as good. I got the tuba.
If I were to do it again, and the Good Lord gave me a choice, I would sing and play the violin on the side. However, what I got to do on the tuba was a great privilege. To play with those phenomenal artists who make up the Boston Symphony was a Blessing from Heaven. As I said, Jesus loved me, and He still does. Thanks for the interview, David.
c. 2017 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved. www.davidbrubeck.com
BONUS! BREATHING MADE EASY, by Chester Schmitz
BREATHING MADE EASY-1
When preparing to play an instrument, if you are inhaling only through the mouth, you can add approximately 1/4 more quantity of air, and breathe much more quickly and quietly, by adding an “open nose” to the process. Nose-breathing is also the way you breathe — automatically — all day long…..to sustain your life.
BREATHING MADE EASY – 2
For those of you, particularly tuba players, who drop your jaw and form your oral cavity so as to say, “hooooo,” or, “huuuuuu,” will find that when you inhale using your nose as well as your mouth, that it will be almost physically impossible to form those vowel sounds. This is OK. One should not drop the jaw to breathe, nor should they use those vowel concepts. The correct concept is, “aaaaaaaaahhhh,” with a relaxed tongue and shoulders down.
BREATHING MADE EASY – 3
If you want to inhale silently, and take in a given amount of air more easily, and more quickly, engage the nasal passage (the nose) when inhaling. Doing this then makes it possible to set your emouchure, with playing pressure, before you breathe, top and bottom center on mouthpiece rim, so that you, after your breath, are immediately ready to make that sound…..accurately and precisely…..and musically. Air comes in at “corners” of the mouth and through the nose. It is not only very easy, but it also is the correct way to prepare and breathe in order to play any brass instrument.
In God’s eyes
I see my body
Running wild into the sea
In God’s eyes
I see a river
Sparkling dark over the rocks
In God’s eyes
I see a spring
Erupting sweet from red earth
In God’s arms sleep our mothers
And in their arms we sleep
Come young soul and drink from the spring
Come old friend and swim in the stream
Dance my feet and twirl into smoke,
Whirl my body back to the sea, the sea.
A genius has a knack for seeing the future, when others seem so deeply rooted in the past. Of seeing so far beyond the box, that the box never was. With integrity & heart, grit and wisdom, the implacable Abbey Conant advances. Beyond the horizons of New Mexico, and deeper than the Black Forest, she has sought expression, beauty and relevance. “1385” tm invites you to come along as she re-invents the trombone….enjoy!
1. If you HAD to choose…which would you live without, words or music?
Definitely words, though I love them too.
2. As an instrumentalist turned vocalist, what insights have the differing approaches to breath wrought?
AC Hmmm…There is wholeness to singing in that the whole body must participate. The sound is produced within the body and resonates from there. The empty spaces in the body create the resonance and every cell vibrates with the vocal chords. When we sing, billions of activities must coordinate and cooperate. The sound image in one’s mind makes the direct, instantaneous journey into material existence.
When we sing what we will then play, the integration that is necessary for making a whole, complete musical idea real has already been achieved. When we then play the same passage, so many subtle aspects of the music are improved, sometimes in indescribable ways. There is a richness added. The basics are all there, sound, style, phrasing, aliveness, connection, etc.
Many say, if you can sing it, you can play it. I guess I would say, if you can sing it, you can sing it. Why wouldn’t we want to sing with our instrument? To have that intimate, heart-connection with our listeners? To be moved and to move others just as singers do?
3. The instrumentalist then singer is a special category, Chet Baker, Nat King Cole, Sarah Vaughan. Have you found inspiration or interest with any colleagues in the club, either historic or living?
Well, the artists you just named all blow me away with their deep connection to their instruments. Louis Armstrong constantly demonstrated that trumpet and voice were just different timbres. Our instruments, our voices are crucibles that can turn our pain and sorrow into music. I hear many players who turn narcissism into music and it sounds like look what I can do instead of hey, listen to this beautiful melody, isn’t it miraculous?
In Winter Dog Time, by Abbie Conant
Though it is below zero I must walk.
This third day of the new year fell on Taos like Dorothy’s house. Whether it killed the wicked witch of 2010 remains to be discovered.
Paralytic, All numb except wild eyes set in a tar baby wired to a post.
Only January feels this way:
Aware but motionless.
A month of chrysalis and ice crystals.
Looking into the Snow Queen’s deep north blue eyes and dying there: a glass body splayed on dry powder snowy expanse.
Horizonless and dark as the pole star is bright.
The old black dog lies motionless in a pile of brown leaves.
I have seen him there many times before. Belly on the earth, his only chance to heal. Part spaniel, part shepard,
part shag rug. He becomes part of the pile of leaves, part of the snow patches, as silent as the line of trees that border his sagging house.
How many times have I thought, he is dead. Poor thing. And then the next day he is back, faintly breathing, passionate in his stillness, agog in sleep as if sleeping for the wintering earth herself.
I walk carefully so as not to slip on the ice. The small, tidy houses of Montoya Street look hermetically sealed, still as frozen toys, dreaming of spring antics and colored socks.
My winter dog lies as a frigid vision over the town which sleeps without knowing it, awakens into further dreaming.
Step after carefully prepared step I precede further into the stilled world of the dreaming dog.
I know that by the time I reach Kit Carson Road I will be in full immersion—in winter dog time. Knowing without knowing, I know. My ears loping toward every faint sound, my nose inhaling the palette of the bluish peach morning, stiff-legged, uncollared, prevailing toward someone perhaps calling my name as the cold settles further into the earth and the morning seems to stop time itself.
The heap of dog has not moved. Somehow I know he still breathes. I see the mountain now, indigo, watching, the only being awake in this season.
4. Can you discuss the development of your “out-of-the-box” approach to soloing-almost a new genre, “micro-opera”, with sets, plot and electronic accompaniment to your singing, acting and trombone playing?
It all started when my composer/husband, William Osborne, couldn’t find a soprano willing to sing one of his music theater pieces, called Winnie, a character portrait from Samuel Beckett’s play, Happy Days. He was originally going to have me play the trombone solos dressed as Winnie’s husband, Willie and a soprano would sing Winnie.
He said, ok you have a year to learn how to sing and work up this piece. Now, I hardly had a speaking voice, let alone a singing voice! But serendipity brought me to a wonderful voice teacher I met in the dorm at a music festival in Switzerland. It turned out she also lived in Munich and she offered to take up the challenge.
It took weeks before I could stop making an embouchure when I sang!
I had to learn to back off a lot in in terms of support so as not to force my voice and wreck my vocal chords. She was patient but relentless and taught me classic bel canto technique. She told me I was a dramatic soprano and that if I worked hard I could be an opera singer. My goal was specific and she brought me to the point where I could sing this difficult 45-minute-long piece and play the tricky trombone part as well, not to mention acting Beckett…a year later we premiered Winnie in Rome.
I should mention that I could not have done this without the Alexander Technique. It helps a person learn new things. One is then able to transcend preconceptions and assumptions about how to do something and truly open to the new. It allows you to be a clean slate. After Winne,came The Miriam Trilogy, a 90-minute program without pause that included: pantomime, having clamps come down on my wrists, and baring a breast for 25min…among many other things.
After Miriam came Street Scene for the Last Mad Soprano—about a homeless woman who thinks she has an audition for the Met. Then came Cybeline, an odd combination of Schubert, Electronics and cartoons. Cybeline is a cyborg who tires to prove to the scientists that she is human by being a talk show host. Wacky.
Aletheia is the new one we just premiered at the ITF 2017. She is in a cage the whole piece. She is an opera singer who doesn’t want to sing for the patrons and who searches for transcendence thought truly being herself and living her truth.
5. What is your voice type?
I started out as a soprano and I guess I am a mezzo now.
6. And are you concerned about the unique requirements of producing the music for its longevity, or does that motivate you to record, or seek proteges?
Unique it is! I believe that this kind of performance art is the future. Just playing the trombone seems so “one-dimentional” to me now.
I would love to coach students on these works!
It takes tremendous courage (or insanity) to undertake this kind of work. One has to play the trombone, sing, act and move—all at world class levels. No single aspect can be halfway.
William and I are busy making video documentation of our various pieces. Right now we are working on The Mirror which is all pantomime, mask-work and trombone playing. We want musicians of the future to be able to do these works. Every gesture I make is notated in each score. The scores are not just musical scores but also stage directions as well. It is all spelled out.
c. 2017 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved. www.davidbrubeck.com
Have you ever had a chamber music gig, and SOMEONE was running a bit late?
Ever wanted to play chamber music, but just couldn’t quite seem to schedule 4 or 5 people at the same time?
Or have you ever just wanted a change of pace in one of your programs?
These duos might be just the right thing…
Because the first part is published in BOTH C and Bb transposition (both are included with each purchase), these duos will work in almost any combination:
Flute-Bassoon or Cello
Clarinet-Bassoon or Cello
Trumpet-Trombone or Euphonium
Oboe-Euphonium or Bassoon
(and, of course, bass trombone goes with everything….)
As presented at the 40th International Trumpet Guild Conference in Columbus, Ohio by DUO BRASS-Craig Morris, Peter Wood, Marc Reese & Jason Carder trumpets with David William Brubeck bass trombone. Each of these ten concert duos have been arranged, performed and refined by Brian Neal, solo trumpet of the Dallas Brass, and David Brubeck, bass trombonist. During four seasons, the Brubeck-Neal Duo presented these arrangements in dozens of concerts. A significant milestone in the development of the under-served duo genre. Available NOW from Cherry Classics!
I have personally played these with bass trombone on the second part and
violin, oboe, Bb trumpet and C trumpet on the top part, and the editors for the duos included not only many of the personnel listed above, but also violinists Geremy Miller and Erika Venable, as well as oboist Erin Gittelsohn.
DUO BRASS featuring Marc Reese davidbrubeck.com
If you play chamber music, these just may improve your life, your performance and bring a smile to the faces in your audience. That is why they were created….
J. S. Bach: Air in G, Badinerie, Aria, Two part Invention No. IV & VI, Siciliana
R. Gliere: Berceuse, Op. 39,
L. Beethoven: Fur Elise,
J. Dowland: Flow, My Tears
Traditional Shaker Melody: Simple Gifts.
c. 2017 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved www.davidbrubeck.com
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It might seem an impossible mission for some; patch the hole left by the departure of Vern and Jan Kagarice at UNT. Call in Navy specialist Natalie Mannix, recruited from Juilliard by way of Michigan, and your problem is well on its way to being solved. Graceful, assured, powerful, never shaken, and stirring! “1385” tm, the tenor trombonist interview series, heads ashore with Ms. Mannix….Enjoy!
1. What was it like to attend a “Public Ivy” such as Michigan, and how have you found your liberal arts preparation valuable?
Going to a large university was such an important part of my growth as a person and a musician. I have always been interested in many things, so much so that I wasn’t ready to pour all of my energies into trombone at that age. I wanted to experience everything, and I guess I can still stay that. I played in the marching band and hockey band for two years, joined clubs, went to parties with friends, worked toward a pre-med degree, held five part-time jobs and cheered on sports teams. I had a lot of fun but worked very hard. In order to pursue both degrees, I took an overload of credits and took classes two summers. I received a very well-rounded education and enjoyed so many experiences that prepared me for life and the sacrifice of spending the next two years in a practice room.
2. You were ensconced and successful in the DC area, with friends and a hard won reputation. Why North Texas, and how do you see the mission of that school and it’s lauded trombone studio?
I loved my life and career in the Baltimore/DC area, but I thought a new adventure would be very rewarding. I would not have made such a big change for just anywhere. The reputation and culture of UNT really excited me. When I interviewed there I was so impressed with the support from the administration and the faculty members, and the students were so excited to learn. One thing I love about UNT is the autonomy given to the professors to design a curriculum for their students. We have three professors in the trombone studio, five teaching fellows and an adjunct jazz professor. Because of the size of our department, we are able to offer many choices to the students: four trombone choirs, nine trombone quartets, an orchestral excerpt class, a low brass section excerpt class, jazz fundamentals, trombone literature and trombone pedagogy, not to mention the offerings outside the trombone area. We put equal importance on classical and jazz studies since we want our students to be well-rounded musicians when they graduate. The college of music encourages this and offers additional innovative programs to help students be marketable when they graduate, like music entrepreneuriship and performing health.
3. What do you think are the biggest factors that lead to a successful career in music during the transition of having just graduated college with a Bachelor or Masters?
Keep learning! Musicians need to be life-long students in order to be successful. Now that your teachers and friends from college are no longer there all the time, you need to be self-motivated. Go to concerts, take every gig that comes your way, meet people, start your own ensembles, take lessons with professionals in the area, start a teaching studio. If you love it and have the passion to succeed, all of this will be fulfilling. You never know what opportunity will lead to something else. If you are on the orchestra/band performing path, keep taking auditions. Don’t be discouraged by a few negative results. Many trombonists have won great jobs after losing auditions. Be open to ancillary paths that may lead to a musically fulfilling career outside of the one you imagined.
4. What is your secret to a good legato?
The answer for me is part mental, part physical. Dennis Smith, my teacher at Michigan, had the most silky smooth legato. I can still hear it. Every time I hear a soloist play with great legato or a singer shape a beautiful phrase, I try to take a mental recording of it. Imitation has always been a very important part of my learning. For the physical execution of legato, the projection and smoothness of the air stream makes all the difference. If the air has someplace to aim, it becomes smoother and more beautiful. Always focus on the music! Every note goes or comes back from a musical peak in the phrase. For some players, the coordination of slide and tongue is problematic. Record yourself often! Many slide connection problems become obvious when hearing your playing back.
5. What did you learn recording a CD? What would you do the same and differently next time?
I learned that it is nearly impossible to get everything perfect, and that is ok! I am hard on myself when listening to takes. It is especially difficult in a dry recording studio where you hear every little thing. If I record another CD, I would record in a nice hall with good acoustics. It would allow me to enjoy the music more and direct the focus away from my critical thoughts. As I went, I got better at thinking less and focusing on the music more. What I set out to do was get people excited about new composers and new music. To me, that is the most important and rewarding part of recording and performing.
6. What has your rich career in the military added to your resilience and outlook that you emphasize to students?
There were many days in the Navy Band that I struggled with fatigue, the weather or the physical demands. At the end of the day though, I always tried to remember how grateful I was to be able to play trombone for a living. After all, how many people can say that? I try to carry that gratitude with me in every part of my life. It keeps things in perspective. We may find ourselves on some pretty terrible gigs (I once marched dressed like a clown in a rainy parade through Newark, NJ!), but we are still lucky to do what we want for a living. On the same note, I hate to see students take the trombone so seriously that they are brought to tears or depression. Being grateful and remembering the original joy in making music can help with that mindset.
7. When you arrived at Juilliard, did you have the feeling that you should have been there all along, or were you glad that you saved it for grad school?
I am so glad I saved it for grad school. I don’t know if I would have seen it through if I went when I was 18. I didn’t know what I wanted yet, and I wanted to try everything first. I did not have the discipline and drive to put enough hours in the practice room. It was hard enough at the age of 22 when I was totally committed. That being said, what great training it was! The attention I gave the trombone in those two years and everything I learned from Joe Alessi is the basis for everything I can do now.
8. How have your accomplishments on euphonium colored your perspectives on trombone? Euphonium players tend to orient as soloists, where as trombonists are more ensembley oriented as a rule.
I have always been more drawn to solo playing. I fell in love with euphonium for this reason, and I much prefer playing it over trombone in any wind ensemble because of it’s melodic solo lines. I was a self-taught euphonium player. When I competed in the Falcone competition at the age of 18, I didn’t have a teacher, so I listened and played along with recordings to learn the style. At first I borrowed musicality from great soloists then ultimately developed my own. This was great musical training for the trombone. Even in the uniformity of orchestral playing, phrasing and musical style are just as important. Every note has to be musical.
9. How do you achieve such consistent articulation, and what is your ideal of beauty with regards to articulation?
In training to be an orchestral trombonist, consistency is everything: repetitive, but concentrated practice of fundamentals. I used to do attack exercises from the Marsteller Daily Routines book, and if I missed an attack I would start from the beginning. Joe Alessi later reinforced this attention to detail and focused concentration. I took it to a whole new level by playing Arbans every day for three years. I guess you can say that I am a recovering perfectionist!
A beautiful articulation is one that isn’t noticed! The tongue is just a release valve for the air and sound. I use a “do” tongue for most everything, unless needing more percussiveness for contrasting style. Variety in articulation, as well as color and dynamics, are the key to playing expressively. I strive for consistency, so that I always make intentional decisions in the execution of beautiful music.
c. 2017 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved www.davidbrubeck.com
Images courtesy of Natalie Mannix and Towson University
The heroes on the screen are telling the story with images while the heroes behind the screen tell it with sound. If you’ve been to the movies more than once, you just may have heard Bob Sanders play..Avatar, X-men, Planet of the Apes…. From big bands to the Hollywood Bowl, live to recorded, the Los Angeles area benefited from some very good vibration from the bell of Mr. Sanders, now you can too! Good & Low Vibrations! “Seven Positions” tm brings you the demur Bob Sanders…Enjoy!
How did things look from your chair in Hoyt Bohannon’s Garage?
Initially, overwhelming! I don’t think I am alone in that. There was this stunning array of trombone players. The music was extraordinarily challenging. The contrast between Hoyt Bohannon and Tommy Pederson’s personalities and their mutual respect and friendship was a joy to behold. This difference was clear in their music. Hoyt’s was largely adaptations and arrangements of orchestral, chamber and vocal music as well as music by great film composers; Tommy’s was mostly original music that reflected his bravura approach to life in general. Alan Kaplan’s Secrets of Hoyts Garage CD and All My Concertos, produced by Jim and Debbie Boltinghouse (JMD Music) illustrate this contrast vividly.
Planet of the Apes – heavy brass section — with Phillip A. Teele, Bill Reichenbach, Bob Sanders, John Van Houten, Dick Nash, Steve Holtman, Alan Kaplan, Alex Iles and Andy Martin.
Neither Tommy nor Hoyt were shy about clarifying the standard they expected – particularly Tommy. Comments like “Who’s the sloppy S.O.B. playing long eighth notes,” “Not your kind of loud,” “Meh!” and “COME ON!!” were interspersed with “Atta boy!” The signature stylistic element of the Garage was the pretty much constant slide vibrato – in ensemble, not just soloistically. Bass trombone, not so much, but it was mandatory for tenors! Hoyt felt, “the string section vibrates, so should we.” This was a deal breaker for some.
(More from Bob on Hoyt Bohannon, Tommy Pederson and the Garage at the end)
How would you compare the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra to the Pacific Symphony?
Their missions are different. Pacific Symphony is just that, a symphony orchestra. It plays, perhaps, a better than average pops concert because many of its members are also active the LA commercial music industry, but it’s focus is on standard (and new) orchestral repertoire. The HBO was formed to augment the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s summer season at the Bowl; the standard orchestral heavy lifting was and is done by the Phil. The HBO is focused on popular music, film music and concert music by composers usually associated with those genres. We would usually perform a semi-staged musical each summer, occasionally an opera. We toured Japan every other year for a while. What I loved most about the HBO was that we treated every style we performed seriously and respectfully; the HBO recorded catalogue reflects that. That is not always the case with other orchestras.
What do you look for in a horn, and how did it change over the years?
In the 70’s, I was pretty much a “big band” bass trombonist; I looked for “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” equipment. In the 80’s, I began doing a lot of symphony, opera and ballet work; movie scores became more “orchestral” and my equipment choices changed accordingly – I moved towards a broader, weightier sound. Y2K found me struggling with focal dystonia, so for the next fourteen years, ease of production became paramount. Regardless of all of that, what I look for in a horn is efficiency, resonance and “character” – without a lot of peripheral fluff – “core” is good.
How would you describe the courage playing brass, and perhaps bass trombone in particular, requires?
Bob Sanders with Lloyd Ulyate
The classic description of recording work is “90% boredom, 10% terror.” It can be quite stressful sometimes. Legendary golfer, Harry Vardon, reputedly said “There are only two types of player—those who keep their nerves under control and win championships, and those who do not.” The music business is like that. Roy Main, who taught scores of successful trombonists out here, told me “Anything you are not used to doing will make you nervous” – experience has a lot to do with it.
A lot of the time, our part is not all that obvious to the listener and we feel safe; but all too frequently, there is no doubt in the room as to “who did that?” Sometimes you have play something that is not in your wheelhouse and there is no escape; that can be scary. And it is different with recording and live playing. A concert can be nerve-wracking but when it’s over, it’s over; the whole world can listen to the same recorded clam for the next 20 years in re-runs. My favorite bit of dialogue from Bridge of Spies comes to mind: “You don’t seem alarmed.” – “Would it help?”
What impact did George Roberts have on your life and musicianship?
Well, his musical examples are numerous and seminal. He blazed the trail for us all. He was a great player of melody’s. While I can play a melody, nearly everything I do is as an ensemble musician. George’s ensemble playing was the biggest influence on me: in tune, in time, in balance and in character. As an example, when George was starting out, his reputation was as a “jazzer” – not really qualified for “legit” dates. He got a last-minute call because a bass trombone player had walked off a session. He races down there and Igor Stravinsky is on the podium – surprise, surprise! – it’s a “legit” date! So there’s a exposed duo passage with bass trombone and harp (which may have precipitated the other guy’s exit). Stravinsky stops the take and says to the harpist, “He’s right, you’re wrong – play with him.” That put George on the map as a “legit” player in the studios from then on.
One of the things about bass trombonists is we don’t see each other much – there is usually just one of us. (That is less true now with the very large sections that are sometimes called.) I did not have a lot of up close and personal time with him at work. I did go down to Bones West, which he founded, several times early on and had a more than few beers and cheeseburgers with him after rehearsals.
George’s generous spirit certainly had an impact on me. One of the few times we were in the section together, very early in my career, George paid me a wonderful compliment: “most guys would be pretty nervous.” Made my day! Another example of his generosity was at ITF at Ithaca College in 2004. Charlie Vernon was going to do a presentation of some sort, but realized that both George and Ed Kleinhammer were in the house and switched it to an impromptu panel discussion with these two icons. George, seeing me in the audience, beckoned me to join them on the stage; needless to say, I demurred; but it was really sweet.
What are your fondest memories from the recording studios? Music, people and situations?
Some of the most fun I’ve had at work (and some not insignificant nostalgia now) was the Flying Circus cue from James Horner’s great score to The Rocketeer. BTW, Horner was a huge part of my career. He was very loyal to me for the better part of 20 years; that is not always the case in this business. It is sad he left us so soon. I started doing movie work right around when George Roberts had moved to Reno for a period of time (another reason for not much face time with him). I found myself starting to work with Dick Nash, Lloyd Ulyate and Tommy Johnson for several composers – sitting where George had been. Again, talk about generosity of spirit! They were wonderful; showing me the ropes, telling when to keep my mouth shut (very important) and taking me to their time-honored lunch dives. That reminds me of the only “lesson” George ever gave me: “Play great, smile a lot and keep your mouth shut!” I think he used that line with a lot of young players.
One of my favorite memories is of Tommy Johnson’s impish sense of humor. Having just purchased a new contrabass trombone, I brought it to work one day to show it off to Phil Teele. Phil, Tommy and I were working together on Elmer Bernstein’s score to Wild Wild West (the Will Smith movie). My part was quite low and Phil kept nudging me and whispering repeatedly, “Sell the contra, sell the contra!” So . . . I asked Mr. Bernstein if he would like to hear the part on the contrabass trombone. He replied, “I don’t know, what does a contrabass trombone sound like?” As I was reaching for the instrument to demonstrate, Tommy spoke up, “It sounds like a CIMBASSO!” When all we stopped laughing, I played a pretty good pedal C and the contra was “sold.”
On another memorable occasion, on a Thursday evening, I received a call from a copyist friend, asking if I was aware that I would be (re)recording the tuba solo from Jaws on a movie date Monday morning – I was not. He thought that was asking a lot of a bass trombonist and I agreed! He faxed me the part, I practiced nothing else for the intervening 3 days and survived the session, even receiving a chorus of “yo, Bob” from my colleagues. It’s good to have friends (and an F tuba).
What is your secret to a monster low register?
Heavy lips and copious, immediate, but SLOW air; nothing kills low notes like fast air. I should clarify what I mean by “slow.” I feel the terms “slow” and “fast” are frequent used imprecisely. Many folks say “fast” air when they mean “high flow rate” air. “Fast” is measured in distance over time – the time it takes one molecule to go from point A to point B – feet per second. “Flow” is measured in volume over time – the number of molecules that move past point C in a unit of time – liters per minute. These are two very different quantities and usually mutually exclusive. So, when I say “slow” airflow I mean “Mississippi River” airflow, not “fire hose” airflow. Some adjectives I use (borrowed from I can’t remember whom) include “hot, humid, germ-laden” air. Hopefully, this pedantry won’t ignite an online pedagogic conflagration.
Who is the best trombonist you have ever heard live? Jazz trombonist? That’s a tough one; there are way too many. I will say that Bill Booth, during the recital he split with Tommy Johnson at UCLA in 1992, is in the running for the best I ever heard live; check out his CD, Balancing Act. Not being an improviser, I don’t feel I have the “vocabulary” to really comment cogently on jazz trombonists, and again, there are so many; but I have certainly enjoyed working with and listening to Andy Martin and Bob McChesney.
Hoyt’s a long time ago. — with Loren Marsteller, Steve Holtman, Hoyt Bohannon, Alan Kaplan, Tommy Pederson, Rick Culver, John Leys and Morris Repass.
Where do you see the direction of the bass trombone heading, and what advice do you give to younger players?
The state of the art is advancing so rapidly it amazes me. Also, there seems to be a trend towards multi-instrumentalism. That said, I do feel some nostalgia for the bass trombone as a specialty instrument. There is a plethora of doublers these days and I feel something is lost. But I have been as “guilty” as the next guy; it is the way of the world; bills must be paid. The more you bring to the party . . .
My advice for young players? The standard keeps getting higher and the market keeps shrinking at the same time it is globalizing. It’s going to become more and more competitive with each passing year. If you can imagine doing something else for a living, do that. There are many ways to have fulfilling musical life without doing it for a living. If you cannot imagine doing anything else for a living, get serious – yesterday! Find great teachers. Inhabit the most competitive musical community you can find. Buy a tuba – practice it. Become as fluent in as many musical genres as possible. Compare yourself to the best and take it to the next level. There is absolutely zero guarantee of success, but somebody is going to be doing this and there’s no reason it can’t be you.
c. 2017 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved www.davidbrubeck.com
Photos courtesy of Bob sanders
MORE ON HOYT, TOMMY and THE GARAGE..
Some folks may not know what “Hoyt’s Garage” was. From 1946, Hoyt Bohannon hosted trombone ensemble rehearsals; from 1951, they took place in his garage, hence the. In the mid-fifties, Tommy Pederson joined the group; the rest is history. Hoyt’s Garage link http://www.alankaplan.org/hoyts-garage/
Hoyt was on staff at Warner Brothers for more than a decade, principal trombone of the Glendale Symphony, a featured soloist with Harry James, played with Paul Whiteman and freelanced in LA for years. Leopold Stokowski programmed the Nathaniel Shilkret Concerto for Trombone to be performed July 28, 1945 at the Hollywood Bowl. Tommy Dorsey had premiered the work earlier that year, but a fee for Mr. Dorsey could be agreed. So 27 year-old Army Air Corps Sergeant, Hoyt Bohannon was tapped to replace Dorsey.
Pullman Gerald “Tommy” Pederson, the self-proclaimed “foremost authority on the art of playing the trombone” was way, way, way larger than life. He went the road with Orrin Tucker’s band at the age of 13, moved to LA six years later a was a first-call trombone player for more than two decades thereafter. He composed over 300 works for solo trombone and trombone ensemble and arranged works such as Ravel’s Alborado del Gracioso, Albeniz’ El Puerto and Festival of Seville (from Iberia Suite) and Debussy’s Prelude (from Suite Bergamasque) for trombones. His record All My Friends Are Trombone Players should be in every trombonist’s library. Michelle Poland Devlin’s doctoral dissertation, https://tinyurl.com/yd4yghhr, is a gold mine of information about Tommy! There is a wonderful video of Tommy playing Flight of the Bumblebee on the Spike Jones TV show here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IzuVX7J9RN8.
Thanks to Steve Wolfinbarger and Andrew Glendenning, we were honored to be invited to the perform at the 2017 International Trombone Festival to present Duo Brubeck featuring Lindsay Blair. What a privilege to see and make so many friends.
Apart from George Roberts and Bill Reichenbach, the bass trombone is often removed from the regular center of jazz music-making. A jazz duo featuring the complimentary timbres of guitar and bass trombone allows the instrument room to interpret and embellish melody, to accompany using walking/two-beat/Afro Cuban inspired bass lines, and to improvise solos. Not to mention arrange, compose and lead a “band”.
For bass trombonists, an great preparation is the independence of parts and internalized rhythm of soloing and accompanying which are found in the 36 dances which comprise the Cello Suites by J. S. Bach. These works of Bach are unparalleled, and stand alone. With over 50 Stereograms published by the ITA Press, Cherry Classics, davidbrubeck.com and yeodoug.com, another approach is offered in Stereograms, which have been tailored to the bass trombone with the incorporation of modern rhythms and grooves.
By switching back and forth between two or three parts when performing, the bass trombonist can choose to imbue each “part” or voice with distinct characteristics, not unlike a solo pianist might do, or a fine interpreter of art song. By varying dynamics, accents, articulation, embouchure tension and timbre, the bass trombonist can successfully delineate these different voices.
The ITF crowd in attendance was of a nice size and enthusiastic response. I was knocked out by the kind words of Bill Reichenbach and the autographs requested after the performance-where else but ITF can that happen to a bass trombonist? The thing that made it worth the trip was the acknowledgement and encouragement of master low-brass man Bob Sanders who said it was the most interesting thing he had heard up to that point (and that was saying something!); that I made it look easy when he knew it wasn’t; and that George Roberts would love what I am doing and be proud.
I’d like to dedicate that performance to my Dad, James Brubeck, and George-whose vision of the bass trombone as essentially a bass solo voice inspired me, while his solo performances into retirement with recorded accompaniment at coffee shops and restaurants emboldened me. Thanks Bob, for digging it, and passing along George’s love for our instrument.
Soon to follow…some recordings with Lindsey.
c. 2017 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved. www.david brubeck.com
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“Seven Positions” tm is delighted to bring to the fore Randy Campora: a thinking man, fully human, and exceptionally musical. From the storied bass trombone chair of the Baltimore Symphony, to a brimming infusion of brass masters past and present, to a life of varied experiences fully absorbed-Campora is focused on exceptional symphonic performances. Join him as he wanders from California to Florida on the road to Baltimore. Enjoy!
1. What childhood memories do you have of California, and Florida?
My grandparents were Italian immigrants who owned a small orchard of almonds and walnuts just east of Stockton, California. As a child I lived first on the orchard, and then in the very small town of Linden, the center of which was the high school, at which my father was the head football coach. I remember the smell of the earth when the first raindrops fell, the taste of the ripe Bing cherries, swimming in the walnut paddies flooded in the summer, the sound of the nuts being shaken from the trees at harvest, and football games in the fall.
My father changed careers when I was 11 and we moved to the polar opposite of the country—geographically and culturally—Tallahassee, Florida. It was a huge adventure for our family and we loved it. We had African American friends and classmates for the first time, acquired something of a Southern accent, experienced the food, loved the jungle-esque flora and fauna, and generally came to appreciate the wonderful people and culture of the South.
We were also blessed by the fact that Tallahassee is a college town, with Florida State and Florida A&M universities, which brought the great things of the world to the relatively small city, including great music programs, nightly orchestra broadcasts on public radio, and golf courses everywhere. I am so glad I got to live in both those unique locales as a kid.
2. What made you decide to study Spanish? And where has it taken you, both musically and non-musically.
I first studied Spanish in my last two years in high school, which served as a decent foundation for when I really had to learn it in the Missionary Training Center for Latter-day Saint (Mormon) missionaries in Provo, Utah. I was assigned to the Houston, Texas Spanish-speaking mission, and only spent eight weeks in the training center—after that it was off to Houston and sink or swim with the language.
I loved the people I met there over the next two years. They were so humble and genuine, and very patient with me as I learned their language and culture. I probably gained more from them than they did from me. Civil wars were raging in Central and South America at that time, and the people I met from those countries had sad stories to tell. Heavy stuff for a nineteen-year-old kid away from home for the first time. I also met folks from every region of Mexico, which also meant the food was excellent!
After that, I have been able to use Spanish, though not as much as I would have liked. I was in a Salsa band for a semester at FSU. Later at Peabody I taught a wonderful bass trombonist from Brazil named Joao Paulo Moreira for almost a year. We both had Spanish as our second language so we used that as our lingua franca—it worked but led to some funny situations from time to time. I would very much like to be able to make more contact with the Spanish speaking trombone world in the future, especially since they are producing so many wonderful players these days.
3. Your talent and discipline found great mentors and opportunities. What was it like to be “the kid”-first as a high school trombonist at FSU, and later as an undergrad in the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra?
One of the things I have marveled at as I have gotten older is the edifying attitude the more experienced players had towards me both at FSU and in the Baltimore Symphony. I was 16 when I joined the Florida State top jazz ensemble, which included many grad students. They could have turned their noses up and made life tough for a kid who was below rookie status, but they did the opposite: they taught me the ropes, expected me to come up to their level, and led by example.
I remember one night after rehearsal Jeff Thomas (now principal trombone of the Orlando Philharmonic and chief Disney trombonist) took me aside and taught me how to “blow freely” and really make a sound that could be heard inside and in front of the group. Blow Freely was the catch phrase of our professor William F. Cramer at FSU, but I had not studied with him yet, so I had to learn what that meant, to really resonate the instrument first and foremost before music can be made.
In my official Freshman year, I was invited to join the Peninsula Trombone Quartet. The other members—David Gatts, Christian Dickinson and David Burris—were grad students. They were so wonderful to work with and taught me so much, and it is to this day some of the most enjoyable playing I have ever done.
Coming into the BSO was much the same. I transferred to Peabody at the start of my third undergraduate year, and won the BSO audition towards the end of that school year when Doug Yeo won the Boston chair. I was twenty-three when I started in the orchestra, and it was David Zinman’s first official year as music director.
Eric Carlson, Jim Olin, David Fetter and David Fedderly were the icons whom I heard play each week with the BSO, and also my professors at Peabody. But they treated me as an equal colleague from the very first day in the orchestra (my first two weeks in the orchestra were Bruckner 4 and Pictures!). Eric Carlson and his wife Lorraine took me to Orioles games, and Eric was a huge influence in my education of orchestra life (what an amazing player Eric is, deserving of much greater recognition—just listen to those Philadelphia recordings with Muti and Sawallisch).
One thing I’ll always cherish is how David Fedderly, my tuba partner in the BSO for almost thirty years, approached the relationship: he never told me how to play. He just played and communicated by listening and singing out his part every single day. If I had a question I could always ask him something, but we relied on the radar method of aural musical communication. I highly recommend this approach as a way to live happily with our colleagues, and Dave was a master at it. Of course, it helps that he was one of the finest orchestral tubists in history . . .
It’s fun to welcome many wonderful younger players as new members of the BSO now. And it’s strange to now be the longest tenured member of the brass section. An orchestra really does need a mix of older and younger players—they each bring important things to the group.
4. Can you put into words the impact of Doug Yeo on your musical and personal life? His depth is considerable and his breadth is impressive. There truly is only one Douglas Yeo in this world. I have never met another trombonist who is more committed, curious, hard-working, intelligent, self-aware, faithful and willing to serve others than Doug. He has been nothing but a blessing to me in my life, and it has been fun and helpful to keep in touch with him through his time in Boston, then at Arizona as a professor, and now as “force-to-be-reckoned-with” in the world at large. He has been an example to me in all areas of life.
I transferred to Peabody because I needed to learn how to play excerpts for orchestral auditions, but also how to play in an orchestra once I (hopefully) got a job, and I thought it was important to study with a bass trombonist. As I was deciding what school to transfer to Doug sent me a cassette of the BSO section’s presentation at a recent ITA conference. His playing, and the section’s, just floored me: so clean, balanced, in tune, colorful, solid, clear, pure and energetic.
Doug is genuinely gifted in being able to teach the excerpts in a logical, musically defensible manner, and we worked really hard that year. One of the greatest gifts he gave me was a simple one: the orchestral player is not prepared unless he knows the score, not just the piece or his part. If I had one bit of advice to give to a player in their first orchestra job, it would be that: study the same source material as your boss, the conductor, and no one will have an advantage over you. If you mark your ideas in your own score, you’ll always have those no matter what orchestra you may play in or whose parts you might use.
I attended BSO concerts at Meyerhoff Hall every week without fail, sometimes twice or three times. I was the first ever student to ask for a student discount for a full season subscription! They sent me all the tickets for the year in one large envelope. I felt like the luckiest guy on earth. To hear Doug and the section perform each week was a marvel, and it was David Zinman’s last year as Music Director Designate so that was special to hear that relationship being developed.
5. How has Peabody changed since your days as a student?
It is becoming less of a conservatory environment and more of a university setting.
When I was there in 1984-85, there was one orchestra, conducted by a seasoned professional conductor, Peter Eros, who had held posts in Malmo, Sweden and San Diego, and had been assistant to several major old school maestros. A small wind program began that same year with Gene Young working with us in small scale wind pieces like Stravinsky, Ives, Messiaen, Tomasi, Gabrielli, etc. There were no education degrees offered. There were no more than 8 total trombone students. The brass and wind faculty were almost exclusively orchestral, from the BSO and the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington. That year, the entire BSO’s trombone section was on the faculty.
Peabody gradually introduced education degrees, a jazz program, and grew a second orchestra and a wind ensemble, increased classroom requirements, and we have had up to 12-14 trombonists some years.
It seems to me that lately Peabody has lost a bit of its conservatory profile by trying to become a university music program. Heaven knows I love those programs, and FSU’s in particular, but I think it is a mistake to move away from the unique focus of a classical conservatory. Places like that don’t just grow on trees, so once you have it I think it’s best to nurture that into the future rather than expand it to the point of not knowing exactly what you are.
The other big change is that it has become so expensive that the average family cannot afford it even with a 50% scholarship. This is a problem in higher education in general, and is true of all of the non-state top music schools in the nation besides those that offer full scholarships upon acceptance. I hope we can find a way to get tuition and room/board to be more comparative to other costs families have to deal with in their lives, such as the electric bill, groceries, automobiles, gasoline, insurance, clothing, etc.
6. What are your favorite solos for bass trombone, either stand alone, or within a larger work.
Speaking frankly, if I have one professional regret it is not continuing to play recitals on a regular basis. I did for the first number of years in the orchestra, but then got out of the habit. It is such a different field of playing compared to the orchestra.
On the other hand, I also admire the great orchestral players of the past, such as Kleinhammer, Crisafulli, Jacobs, Ed Anderson and others of their generation who did not play many solo recitals—I admire the specialization and old school work ethic of digging deep to become truly great in a very specific endeavor. What a miracle it is to see great orchestral players who are such superb soloists: Charlie Vernon, Randy Hawes, Ben Van Dijk, Doug Yeo, and many others.
The solos I like to practice are also the ones I have my students work on: Spillman, Vaughn Williams, Bozza, Verhelst, Ewazen, Koetsier, Tomasi, Tcherepnin, Dossett, Hidas, Halsey Stevens, John Williams, Jacob, Marcello, Culver, Pederson, Lantier, White, Chris Brubeck, Wilder, etc.
A few lesser known solos that I think are worthy of more attention: Sonata for Bass Trombone by Carl Vollrath (published by TAP Music, commissioned by Cramer), Romantic Flash by Georges Barboteu (sort of a sequel to Bozza’s New Orleans), Tubaccanale by Boutry. I played the last three movements of Bohuslav Martinu’s Pastorales for Cello and Piano, with some edits, and really enjoyed that project, as well as Sulek’s Sonata Vox Gabrieli with a couple octave changes in the slow melodies, because my teacher, Professor Cramer, commissioned it and it’s near and dear to my heart.
We are so fortunate to have so many composers writing for our instrument now! It’s just staggering how many pieces come to us each year. I had the privilege of being Frank Gulino’s bass trombone teacher at Peabody at the time that he began composing—he’s totally self-taught—and what a major talent he has proven himself to be. Another talented student, Joseph Buono, composed a trombone ensemble piece titled Eclipse that won a contest and has been widely performed.
7. What is your secret to a great legato?
I like the term portamento to describe the embouchure action in legato: it’s the noun form of the Italian verb portare, meaning to carry. For example, if you have something valuable you want to give to someone on the other side of the room, you take it in your hands and you walk over and carry it to them—nothing jerky, sudden, or thrown around. Glissando is the more common term, but I prefer portamento.
I think of the embouchure movement from note to note as moving more slowly and deliberately, with no jerks or skips, than the movement of the slide. The slide I like to move as late and as quickly as I can get away with, though also smooth and not in a way as to mar the singing portamento happening at the lips. So the lips sing smoothly and rather slowly to the next note, while the slide waits until the last moment and goes quickly to the next position.
The slide motion I think of as business-like: it goes from point A to B at the right time relative to the lip portamento, quickly and not wasting time, smooth arm and a shock absorbing wrist, held by a precise grip of one or two finger tips and the thumb. We must always manipulate the inanimate horn in a way that it becomes a mirror for what we imagine our final product to be in our mind, and what the lips are doing as they sing like vocal chords—but in the case of legato if we moved the slide as slowly as the lips move it could come out sounding slurpy and not voice-like.
I like to think there are several different grades of legato, from my most smooth, singing, wet Bordogni style with some of the portamento showing through in the final product, to what I would call an orchestral legato which is a cleaner, more sharply defined legato better fitted to a large hall with a hundred other people on stage playing together. I can use my Bordogni legato in the orchestra if it is a certain type of solo, like Mahler’s grosse Ton, aber weich geblassen in his Seventh, which I play more like legato even though there are no slur markings. The twice repeated solo in Tchaikovsky’s “Dance of the Snowflakes” from The Nutcracker is one that I play legato and cantabile but with a somewhat more clean and clear end result, and keeps the tempo from dragging.
As is typical in America, and increasingly around the world, I use as many natural and valve slurs as I can and match the articulation to those. If forced to say what syllable I use for legato tongue, I would say a very quick Latinate “R”, like in Italian or Spanish, between two vowels, like in the word oro.
And as we all know, but have to work on our whole lives, the air stream for the singing phrase—be it ultra-legato or an articulated cantabile—must be unflagging and related to the phrase, not the notes in most cases, and especially not to the slide movement.
One exercise Professor Cramer used to have us do in his studio as Freshman working on Bordogni, in order to get the resonance established immediately at the first attack, was this: begin the first note of each phrase with an air attack (hOh), then use normal legato tongue in the phrase, and also do an air attack on any note inside the phrase that follows a breath. A variation was to replace the legato tongue with glissandos, along with the air attacks on the first note and following the breaths. This got the sound singing from the very first note, and got the air going immediately. It was usually done at a rather healthy dynamic level.
It is almost passe to remind ourselves to listen to great singers on recordings, from all eras of musical history available to us, but this advice is indeed crucial to develop our most profound musical goal: to sing like our mothers did to us when we were babies.
I like Domingo, Pavarotti, Jussi Bjorling, Mario Lanza, Jesse Norman, Bartolli, and a whole bunch of others. I put them on when I am playing Bordogni (those were trainers for the Rossini style after all) and try to absorb their voices like the rainwater to the ground. I also like listening to organ recordings to remind me of what a continuous air stream sounds like underneath the notes of a long phrase with many notes (organ air). I love Michael Mulcahy’s dictum: Sustain from breath to breath!
8. Can you describe the specialties of brass instruction of each of the following in a few words? What did each do best for you?
Eric Carlson: Pure sound, clean non-aggressive articulation, graded dynamics, consummate ensemble skills, superb low range, non-fussy musicality, vocal approach, sense of humor, love for baseball and ice cream, the ultimate second trombonist!
Arnold Jacobs: Eye opening lesson!, teach each person to maximize their own physical/musical potential, enhance confidence, increase consistency and predictability of musical results, freeing the mind to worry about music, how to use less muscle and more elastic air energy, articulation as speech, I see how my body works best, I played Bolero at the end of the lesson and it worked!, expert at going from an idea to a usable physical technique, the master!
Joe Alessi: Gracious (gave me a free lesson in a very busy week for him!), inspiration personified, never rests on his laurels, one of a kind, high standards, desire to serve and to give to others, super-human, expressive, healthily analytical, inquisitive, part of one of the best sections in history (Dodson, Alessi, Vernon in Philadelphia).
William F. Cramer: Model professor, man of faith, great intelligence, moral and ethical, caring, figured everything out in a vacuum out of the lime light, willing to travel the globe during the Cold War to exchange ideas and materials, encouraging, demanding, crusty but loving, true love of music, supported composers, helped birth the ITA, played Bordogni accompaniments on piano in lessons, no nonsense, didn’t fix what wasn’t broken, fearless, blow freely!
9. As a young bass trombonist in the 80’s, how much did Charles Vernon influence you? How do you view his contributions to the instrument?
I first heard Charlie’s playing via two mono cassette recordings that Dr. Cramer loaned me that he had made himself at the ITA workshops in the mid to late 70s. I was just transfixed, utterly stunned at the musical presentation, the sound, range, control, singing vibrato, the whole thing just floored me. It just seemed like he was playing bass trombone like the angels intended!
I first got to hear him live when FSU went up to the Eastern Trombone Workshop held at Towson State University in Baltimore in 1979 or 1980. He played the Vaughn Williams Concerto and the Bozza Quartet. I can still hear every note of those tapes and those performances, I still know where he breathed and how he phrased.
As the years went on, I heard him several times live with the Philadelphia Orchestra, played trombone ensembles with him and my BSO colleagues in his basement, wore out many CDs and LPs of him with Philadelphia and Chicago (and early Baltimore Symphony recordings—check out his Nutcracker on YouTube or iTunes with Comissiona conducting), and had a couple of lessons with him.
Charlie has done so much for our instrument, I hope he realizes this in his moments of wondering self-doubt, if he ever has them, because his contribution and example are so magnificent. He personifies what Jacobs and Kleinhammer taught, and to be able to hear that buoyancy in the sound and approach is priceless.
The Baltimore Symphony, minus myself, has got to have the greatest bass trombone pedigree of modern history: Ted Griffith (went to Montreal), Charlie Vernon, John Engelkes, and Douglas Yeo. I cannot imagine a better set of players to have to attempt to live up to. I have tried to incorporate a little of each of these players in my orchestral approach (a big shout out to John Engelkes, whose playing I adore).
It’s hard to not hear Charlie’s example in one’s mind whenever one is playing a major orchestral piece that he has recorded. That can be a burden–a siren song to maybe tempt one to reach a little past one’s own self in terms of volume or presence–but if kept in perspective it is a huge guiding star. If I could say one thing to Charlie it would be: thank you! And if I could say one thing to Gene Pokorny it would be: you deserve a medal!
10. What human experiences and emotions have informed and enriched your music-making as you travel through life. How has the tapestry of life become fuller in a way that has infused your music.
There is so much one could say in answer to this, but I’d like to respond with things I have learned as part of an ensemble and organization for over thirty years.
I have learned that over the years, as important as the music is, as important as your professionalism is, as your attention to your playing is, that people are more important. Take your relationships with your long-term colleagues seriously, thoughtfully, and when those relationships are working well try to enjoy them, because there is no law that says it will always be that way.
In what other profession can you work with the same colleagues on your left and your right, sitting at a distance of 18 inches on either side, for several decades at a time, working as a team in a non-verbal setting, with your boss looking at you every single minute you are on the clock, dressed in white tie and tail coat, holding five pounds of metal, with the express purpose of giving hope, entertainment, faith, inspiration, enlightenment, and art to two thousand people at a time?
Show your respect and love for your colleagues, especially the ones in your own section: always be prepared (musically, mentally and physically); be willing to self-diagnose problems in your playing and work until they are solved, so you and your buddies can all be happy; listen as much as possible, give the benefit of the doubt; give yourself slack in those moments that you are the weak link.
Stay on the section bus and don’t drive away on your own bus; express openly your respect, admiration and love to each other; don’t diagnose the problems of others; make your most important statements through your playing and actions, not with your words; cultivate self-awareness; share your best ideas and experiences with your colleagues; be positive in your own way (yes, you can be cynical and positive if that is your personality).
Foster an atmosphere worthy of the greatness of the music; respect the stage and all it represents, at all times; put the cell phone away and open the score, pay attention to rehearsal; don’t wait too long to express important things to colleagues who are important to you, in an appropriate way, because the chance might be gone forever.
I have also had significant experiences working on non-musical areas of the orchestra, as chairman of orchestra players’ committees, orchestra artistic planning committees, feedback groups for young conductors, music director search committees, fundraising groups, and audition committees.
These tasks can lead to some painful moments of frustration, even failure, but as I look back I see that I met some wonderful people that I otherwise would have missed, and I developed skills that in some cases I didn’t know I even had. Are there things you can do in your organization that will give service and also help you develop yourself more?
I was once offered a spot in a downtown law firm, if I ever got a law degree, by the head partner after I gave a speech to the board of directors. I got to know bank presidents, owners of major league sports teams, leading bio researchers, mayors and governors. It is also a good way for your own managers and executive directors to get to know you and your value to the organization.
But there comes a time when you also have to say Basta! and focus on your practice and leave some of that stuff behind.
Probably my favorite moment where life and music intersected was the day our second son, Rafael, was born.
He arrived in the wee hours of the morning on a weekend. My wife was feeling fine, Raffi was healthy, my mother-in-law was taking care of our oldest son, Dominik, and my wife looked up at me in the morning in the hospital and said: “You know, I really think you should play the concert tonight and celebrate Raffi’s birth that way.” I asked her ten times if she was really sure, and she confirmed it each time.
That night was David Zinman’s last concert of his tenure as music director, and the piece was Bruckner’s 8th, perhaps the most transcendent work in the literature. It was such a joyful experience—I was floating on a cloud the whole time and every note came out a gem. It taught me that we can use our life experiences in personal ways to make performing a joy for ourselves and our audiences.
11. What do you look for in a bass trombone? How has it changed?
I look for an openness that can also be controlled in all registers and dynamics, a good relationship between inner focus and outer radiance (bloom), ability to project with warmth and color, clarity of articulation, ability to meld into the other players but also step forward towards the audience when needed. It also must ergonomically fit my body comfortably.
I don’t like horns that tempt me to push too much with the abdominals (heavy horns do that to me). I like horns that help me focus the higher I go, and help the sound blossom the lower I go, and have predictable mid-range response (for all those soft sustained notes in orchestral parts).
Right now I use an Edwards dependent axial valve section, a 1575cf bell (22 gauge yellow brass, soldered rim, heat treated, cf treated, 10” diameter), a yellow brass single radius tuning slide, a 502-V single bore slide (rose tubes, yellow crook, #2 brass pipe), and a Griego .5 NY mouthpiece. I also have the rose brass version of the bell, a 1574cf, which I can use for earlier composers—it gives a slightly more classic German profile.
My theory as to why I like the 10” bells is that the extra quarter inch all around adds a bit of weight without a thicker wall, and is not larger enough to cause any negative acoustical patterns. Perhaps similar to a German kranz but not overlaid on the bell.
I just recently switched to the single bore slide from the dual bore after many years. The new 502 design seems to give me the best qualities of both, but with easier control, more color and easier projection. The dual bore skews more towards the contrabass profile, which is great for many things, but not perfect for all things.
We have so many wonderful trombone makers on the planet now, it’s astonishing!
In the past I used Bachs for many years, with Schilke 60 mouthpieces of various rim sizes, backbores and shanks; Minick L or OL pipes; Thayer valves, mostly dependent setups, but for a while an in-line (in-line Thayers don’t fit my neck/jaw very well and mess up my ability to get the mouthpiece in the right spot on my face).
I don’t own a contra, and neither does the orchestra. We don’t play the opera literature often enough, or orchestral contra pieces, to justify it for me. I have played contra on a few occasions when I could easily get my hands on a loaner. When we play Wagner Ring excerpts I use my normal horn and try to transform into a contra sound and approach, a la Steve Norrell (go Steve!).
c. David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved. www.davidbrubeck.com
Photos courtesy of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and The Peabody Conservatory
Isabelle Lavoie is all set to be a featured artist at the 2017 International Trombone Festival next week at University of Redlands. Isabelle emerged as a young musician in Montreal, made her career in Toronto and has recently soared into the international spotlight as a member of the famed Monarch Brass. A frequent contributor to various international festivals, Lavoie brings her poise, multi-linguality, and insights down from Thunder Bay to “Seven Positions” tm ….Enjoy!
1) Do you hear different characteristics in French as opposed to English Speaking brass players?
Although I have never done any research on the subject, I believe that the differences between the French and English languages do affect articulation, tongue placement and sound in brass playing.
French and English have almost identical alphabets and yet, they sound completely different. French has way more phonetic sounds than what would be expected from the alphabet.The tongue positions are exaggerated and the vowels sound more short and crisp. The vowels can also be oral or nasal (en, un, on, etc), depending on the jaw position and the tongue position in the mouth. French also has sounds that don’t exist in English, such as ‘R’ (throat), and
‘U’ (tongue at the front of the mouth). Many sounds are more rounded in English, which doesn’t occur in French.
International French and Quebecois French also differ quite a bit. Quebecois French adds an ’S’ sound after the consonants ’T’ and ‘D’. Those sounds ‘T’s and ‘D’s are almost nonexistent in the English language. The tongue position for the vowels is also more extreme, in front of the mouth. The vowels sound darker, longer, as the oral cavity is more open. Quebecois people can also generally speak International French easily, which opens a whole new world of colours and tones. I would assume that the more languages you speak, the more freedom and options you have on a brass instrument.
I also believe that every note on brass instruments has its own ideal consonant/vowel option for optimal resonance and best sound, but this is a whole other topic!
2) What are your favorite aspects of playing Operatic music? Ballet music?
Opera to me is the ultimate form of Art.
It involves a visual aspect, story telling, acting, vocal and instrumental music-making. When I’m in the pit, I feel like I am part of something much bigger than me and my own little part. I also think of trombone as the most vocal wind instrument which probably explains why I am naturally drawn to the singing voice (especially mezzo soprano & baritone). I always learn something watching and listening to singers: how do they phrase things? How do they breathe? How do they change the colour in their voice to convey different emotions and characters? How do they project the way they do?
Ballet music often has glorious moments for low brass.
What’s not to love?
3) What do you look for in a trombone?
To be honest, I have never been a gear-head. When I find a set up that is low maintenance, that allows flexibility and variety in colour, I stick with it. I want to be able to have both a luscious velvety sound in the mid-low register and a compact sound with just enough brightness. The unsoldered HW Yellow brass bell from Shires I use gives me both of those options. The only thing that my current set up is lacking is more brightness in the mid-upper register. I need to be able to sound more like a ‘Trombone 3’ too.
4) What is your secret to legato?
It may not be mainstream, but I often use double tonguing: ’DA-DOO-DU-DE-DI’ and ‘GA-GOO- GU-GE-GI’ depending on the register. I also use a whole lot of valve combinations for the smoothest natural slurs and legato articulation (ie. Schumann’s Rhenish or Schubert’s Unfinished solo at the very end on the F).
5) How important has chamber music been to your development? What other experiences have you had, and how did they help lead you to Monarch Brass?
During my Undergraduate Degree back in Montreal, I played with the school symphony orchestra, the new music ensemble, various chamber groups, two big bands, and a fantastic early music group outside of school. Doing it all helped me grow quite fast as a musician. It taught me versatility, awareness and musicianship early on. I started working with professional symphony orchestras at 21. Since I moved to Toronto, I have almost exclusively been working with symphony orchestras and occasionally with brass ensembles.
I approach playing in large ensembles just like I do in chamber music settings. It really is all about making music as a whole. Most of the time, the low brass section plays in harmony, but often in the classical and romantic repertoire, the bass trombone plays the bass line with the tuba, lower strings, 2nd bassoon, low horns, timpani, etc. Over the years, I have learned to be more and more sensitive to my colleagues: how they sound, how they breathe, how they move. I have learned to adapt and to change my sound/intonation quickly, while providing a solid base to the ensemble.
The first time I played with the Monarch Brass Ensemble was at the International Women’s Brass Conference in Kalamazoo, MI, in 2012. I was subbing in for Julia McIntyre, who is a founding member of the group and Principal Bass Trombonist of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. She was and still is the only female bass trombonist to hold a position in a major symphony orchestra here in Canada. Julia and I had only met a couple of times, but there were very few working female bass trombonists in the country then. I am so grateful that she trusted me, because I have been playing with Monarch ever since.
Not only has every performance with the group been some the most musically rewarding experiences of my career, it gave me the opportunity to meet, play and befriend some truly amazing women and musicians. As a member of the group, I have performed at three editions of the International Women’s Brass Conference (2012, 2014 & 2017), at the International Trumpet Guild Conference (2015), at the Midwest Clinic (2016) and at the International Trombone Festival (2016). After performing at ITF in NYC, I was offered to join the Cramer Choir, as well as to perform as a soloist at ITF 2017.
MONARCH BRASS, PLEASE BEGIN AT 19:40
6) How would you compare the different approaches to making music on brass instruments you have observed in England, The US, Quebec, and Toronto?
I have played in sections with people from all over the world, who used different equipment, and who spoke a different language than me. Of course, the differences are always obvious at first, but with musicianship and adaptability, it doesn’t usually take very long to figure things out.
Maybe I think this way because I am from Montreal, which is a melting pot of different schools of brass playing. It is a small artistic centre where the French Canadian brass tradition (Conservatoire de Musique, Université de Montréal, Orchestre Métropolitain, etc.) coexist with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra/McGill University tradition. The MSO has members from all over the globe and includes almost as many Americans as Canadians (English and French) in its brass section. In Quebec, there is room to be yourself as a trombonist as long as your sound and style are engaging and versatile.
Toronto has it’s own style of trombone playing. Almost everyone plays Shires trombones with Greg Black mouthpieces. We tend to play everything very long with a clear front and with a resonant vibrant sound. We like to change our sound and articulations depending on the repertoire we are playing.
In the States, I have mostly played with the Monarch Brass. With the band, we focus on matching each other’s sound and playing beautiful music. Although we all come from very different backgrounds, no one ever sticks out because our priority is the blend. I’ve never had to question myself on how to do things with Monarch Brass.
I also attended the same summer program in England twice, with trombone players from Ireland, the US, Spain, Australia, and a couple of English tuba players. Two of the best sections I have ever played in!
7) How do you conceive of an ideal bass trombone sound, ad what drew you to the instrument?
My ideal sound is rich, fat and yet with a lot of core. It has loads of overtones and it has a wide range of colours depending on the register, dynamic, style and character.
Originally what drew me to bass trombone was jazz and commercial music. The first time I heard bass trombone so clearly was in a big band show. I was 14 or 15 years old and I was smitten.
8) Who are your inspirations? Musical & Nonmusical
Being from Montreal, two of my biggest musical inspirations are Alain Trudel and Pierre Beaudry. Not only are they wonderful musicians, they are great teachers, hard workers and human beings you just want to be around
. My ultimate inspiration is all my colleagues of the Monarch Brass Ensemble and IWBC pioneers, such as Abbie Conant. Women in brass have come a long way, but they still have a long way to go to equality.
c. 2017 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved www.davidbrubeck.com