Sometimes multitasking can go to far. For me lately, my practice habits have been lead by the NBA playoffs. I settle in to watch a game but feeling guilty about not practicing my trumpet. So I decided to create a practice routine around the game.
I tend to think of this kind of practice as maintenance. More like stretching or breaking a sweat, and not a full blown workout on the horn. This should be be done with exercises you are familiar with, not exercises which are new to you.
The routine is centered around Herbert L. Clarke’s Technical Studies. I keep the volume low on my T.V. and practice with a practice mute sometimes. Some of the game go late into the evening.
I practice the first study in the first quarter of the game, then play Etude 1 during the coaches interview between the 1st and 2nd quarter. Then do the same with the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th studies and quarters.
I have used other books as well. That said these other books are related to the Clarke Studies, like the Vizzutti’s Trumpet Methods or Robert Nagel’s Speed Studies.
I love having time to just listen to something new to me. I also love checking out familiar groups with new projects. One of the groups I like to follow is The Westerlies. I came across their NPR Tiny Desk Concerts performance from 2016. And I loved it! It’s a refreshing and inventive program, with great brass playing. Hope you agree.
The Westerlies have a bunch of other video’s to check out, just look them up
This time of year has traditionally been a time of reflection on the year which had just passed. Sometimes I even look through some old journals just to see what I was on my mind previous years. Recently I had opportunity to participate, prepared and give a TEDx talk. The process of putting it all together offered a level of self-reflection which I was not really ready for. However by the end of this undertaking I felt the message in the talk represented some of my journey as an artist. The self-doubt, the persistence, the tension, and the development.
In the end, I would not have done this with out the help and encouragement of the TEDx coaches, my wife, my family, the other TEDx participants and ultimately the my friends.
The Bloomingdale School Of Music is the place where I took private trumpet lessons, started loving chamber music and starting learning about music composition. It was one of the most important paths set before me.
I had my first moments of personal success at this small neighborhood community music school. Perhaps this is the place that has given me my first opportunities to succeed and fail in a safe place.
“What gives the artist real prestige is his imitators.” Igor Stravinsky
I deal with insomnia often. When this happens I try to do something productive. I’m a teacher, so I try to use this time to think about teaching or projects for my students. But before I was a music teacher I was a freelance musician. As a freelance musician you tend to give yourself project to match your thirst for creativity. At one point I decided to arrange a few pieces of music for a brass quintet. I did this often because I happen to be a member of a few brass quintets and thought, I might get some good traction if this arrangement becomes part of our normal repertoire. However the piece I choose was not working out in the way that I wanted it to work. The version I wanted to use as a scaffold was written for a large ensemble and a vocalist. The piece is by Kenny Wheeler and it’s called “Gentle Piece”.
After several attempts, over a few days, I totally hit the wall. At the time, I was also working on a graduate degree and preparing for a recital. So I had a lot on my plate. However, these sounds which I thought would work so well for the brass quintet and didn’t, felt great coming out of my out of tune piano. In fact when I tried the improvised section of Kenny Wheeler’s piece, I stumbled on to the opening ideas to my piece for trumpet and piano call “Fractured Trance”.
The opening idea lead me to explore more ideas around rhythm and space within that movement. That idea lead to a two more movements and later this became my first piece for trumpet and piano. I followed the same process with the second piece I wrote for trumpet and piano, which were both recorded by a Brian Chin. Finally I used this same process to compose a piece for my middle school students.
Out of that experience I figured out that I can use another source for inspiration, with the full intent on trying to recreate an idea, a vibe or a feeling offer to us by another person. It’s okay to imitate. This kind of imitation can lead to personal breakthroughs.
Sometimes I forget why I like certain composers and then I am reminded of how important some were to me as a young musician. I ran across this on NPR and once again I am reminded of why I love Aaron Copland’s music.
Having a quick warm-up at my disposal has been a very useful to me. Somedays I have 40 minutes to get my face ready for a day of playing. Unfortunately too often I get only 10-15 minutes to play in the morning. And that’s it!
So when my private student informed me that they didn’t have much time to get in a good warm-up, I decided to help them and me with that problem. Here’s what I came up with…perhaps it might be useful to others.