Last week, my wife and I had the privilege of seeing Hilary Hahn perform the Korngold Violin Concerto with the Philadelphia Orchestra at the Kennedy Center here in Washington. What a stunning performance she gave! The orchestra, particularly Carol Jantsch, sounded great on Bruckner 7 but I felt that Hilary Hahn stole the show with her performance of the concerto on the first half. Continue reading
I’m not sure what else I can really say about Joe Alessi. His artistry and command over the trombone are famous. His ability to play solos like this one just as convincingly as playing the lead trombone in the New York Philharmonic is also noteworthy. He is a true virtuoso.
This is a live clip of Joe playing “Three Scenes for American Trombone” by Eric Richards. This is a perfect piece to show off his abilities as both a technician and musician. Continue reading
“I’ve considered always that teaching is a far more important aspect of my life than performing…I’ve always said that after a standing ovation, people sit down. Teaching may affect generations.”
- Janos Starker
What an amazing quote about the imperative that is music education. It simply is not an option to eliminate it from any student’s educational experience in this country. Nothing short of future generations are at stake. May we honor the late, great Mr. Starker, whom we lost this week, by continuing to fight the good fight when it comes to music education.
May he rest in peace.
I am amazed by the brass band tradition in England. There are countless hours of nearly flawless brass playing on YouTube from the great brass bands. This is a really great clip because it is so long. Continue reading
Becoming a great band director or an accomplished performer is not an accident. If you require your students to play with their best sound possible at all times, it will become a habit. If you make yourself play with great groove all the time, it will become a habit.
At the same time, if you allow yourself to clip a note to take a breath, it will become a habit. If you allow your band to play heavier when playing fortissimo, it will become habit.
Excellence is indeed a habit. Are your habits today promoting excellence?
As I’m sure you all know, we recently lost arguably the greatest orchestral trumpet player of all time, Bud Herseth. I feel so blessed to have attended Northwestern when Bud was still playing with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in the mid-90′s. His presence as the leader of that orchestra can’t be summed up in a blog post. Continue reading
I’ve never heard articulation explained as well as Michael Mulcahy did in the Bud Herseth piece that is tomorrow’s Monday YouTube Clip:
Arnold Jacobs had a tremendous vitality of attack, tremendous clarity. Not harsh, but more energy at the beginning of the sound than people associate with symphonic musicians.
More energy at the beginning of the sound is what I’ve been working 29 years to achieve and that is the best wording of it I’ve ever heard. Thank you Mr. Mulcahy!
All instrumentalists, whether we realize or not, are trying to imitate the same thing: the human voice. I model my phrasing, vibrato, note endings and much, much more after the great vocalists.
Last week I saw the great Swedish mezzo-soprano, Anne Sophie von Otter, perform for the first time. She sang the solo part in a Boston Symphony performance of Mahler’s Third Symphony at Symphony Hall in Boston. I was eighth row and was absolutely blown away by the elegance and effortless power with which she sang. She stole the show. Continue reading
Last week I saw Harry Watters perform an absolutely wonderful recital at the Eastern Trombone Workshop at Fort Myer in Arlington, VA. He titled the recital “A Tribute to Carl Fontana” and was joined by four colleagues to fill out a jazz combo. It was truly an incredible hour of music, especially considering the fact that it was at 10:00 AM!
There were many things to be impressed by at this recital. When you closed your eyes, you swore that you were listening to Fontana himself, live and in the flesh. Harry’s doodle tongue is perfect, his slide technique is textbook and his phrasing is clear and brilliant. But there is one thing not on that list that I keep thinking about some four days later: his vibrato.
Harry’s vibrato is really incredible and one of the best I’ve ever heard from a brass player. The jazz style that he was playing in features a lot of slide vibrato and he executed it to perfection. Listening to Harry’s vibrato reminded me that there are four basic variables in the effective use of vibrato:
- The width of the vibrato.
- The speed of the vibrato.
- When you start the vibrato.
- When you end the vibrato.
A great question to ask yourself as a player: do I always use the same width of vibrato? The same speed? Am I always predictable as to when I begin my vibrato? If you are Harry, the answer to these three questions is no. Within one recital, all within the same style of music and all while imitating the same artist the entire time, he had variety to all three of these parameters.
The vibratos of the late, great Roger Voisin of the Boston Symphony and that of Chris Martin of the Chicago Symphony are amazingly different in both their speed and width. Studying all different kinds of vibrato is essential for any student to develop their own voice in this department. That study, for the record, begins and ends with singers. They are who we all try to emulate, period.
It has been my experience that many students use vibrato on any and all long notes when they are attempting to play musically. Vibrato is a wonderful tool for making a long note interesting (one of the best in fact,) but to my ears having a vibrato which is always predictable really robs it of most of its effectiveness.
There were long notes when Harry waited a long time before adding vibrato which created a real sense of tension. There were also some longer notes where he ended the vibrato before he got to the conclusion of the note, ending it with straight tone. This also has a really magical effect when done right.
But there was one note that really registered with me and is the note that inspired this blog post. During one of his jazz ballads, there was a long note that was screaming for vibrato. He had already proven to me that I didn’t know when he was starting the vibrato, when he was ending it or the speed and width of it. He already had me “leaning forward” in my chair in anticipation.
With this long note in particular, he waited, and waited, and waited, and finally the note ended and the vibrato never came. He went on to the next phrase without using the vibrato that I was specifically waiting for. What an effect! It was very moving.
So Harry taught me something last Friday morning. In addition to the four points above to consider when using vibrato I now consider a fifth: should I even use vibrato on any particular note, even if the entire rest of the tune features it. I’ve been thinking about it ever since.
On Friday night I had the privilege of hearing Doc Severinsen solo with the incredible Alan Baylock Jazz Orchestra. It was one of the best concerts I’ve ever seen. The writing, the ensemble, the communication and DOC SEVERINSEN!
This guy is 85 years old. That is not a typo, 85 years old, and is still playing his tail off. I was accompanied by Joe Alessi to the concert and beforehand Joe said “Doc might be the greatest brass player of all time.” If you know Joe, you know that he doesn’t throw superlatives like that around too often. He said no qualifiers and there was no context. He is simply one of the greatest brass players of all time. Continue reading