Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Low Brass Boot Camp
Day Three

This day's session was the highlight of the week for Mike, myself and the students. It was also open to the general public and we had a good sized crowd show up. First off, we were treated to a short recital by Larry Zalkind and his wife, Roberta Zalkind on piano. The program was as follows...

Fritz Kriesler - Liebesleid
Ludvig van Beethoven - 12 Variations on a theme from The Magic Flute
Tommy Dorsey - Trombonology

Mr. Zalkind performed the entire program by memory with beautiful expressiveness and effortless execution. It was easy to forgot that these works were being performed on the trombone!

Mike Becker and I then joined Larry for a few trombone trios and a demonstration of some standard works from the orchestral repertoire. We were assisted by Kevin Bock on the pieces that required tuba. These included...

Daniel Speer - Two Sonatas
J.S. Bach - Fugue in G Major
Johannes Brahms - Symphonies No. 2 & 4
Anton Bruckner - Symphony No. 4
Paul Hindemith - Symphonic Metamorphosis

The last portion of Larry Zalkind's day with us was a masterclass where the students came up to play individually or in low brass sections. Mr. Zalkind got into great detail about style, sound, air production and articulation. While not surprising, it was very refreshing to have Larry come in and reinforce everything that Mike and I had been talking about earlier in the week!

I would like to personally thank both Larry and Roberta Zalkind for coming down to this year's Low Brass Boot Camp...both wonderful people and musicians!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Low Brass Boot Camp – Day Two

Larry and Roberta Zalkind arrived from Salt Lake City that morning in preparation for their recital the next day and Larry's masterclass. Mike, Larry and myself briefly rehearsed some of the trio works that we were to perform on Thursday. During the day's session, several of the students also had the opportunity to get individual lessons with Larry Zalkind.

The Boot Camp would go from 1pm to 6pm everyday except Sunday. Sunday was the last day and reserved for a final mock audition. Wednesday's session started off by going over Hindemith's Symphonic Metamorphosis in full low brass sections. The students worked on matching sound, style and pitch on this particular work.

For the second part of this day's session, Mike Becker led an in depth discussion and exercise on breathing, balance and sound production. He talked about many of the principals behind yoga and breathing, as well as using some techniques from David Vining's The Breathing Book. Mike had the students use a proper breath to make a vibrant sound on the first note of a standard audition piece: Ravel's Bolero for tenor trombone, Beethoven's Ninth Symphony for bass trombone and Wagner's Die Meistersinger for Tuba. We did further exercises beyond this, such as matching notes in pairs and playing Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries in pairs.

The afternoon for the students concluded with a mock audition for a couple of the trombonists who were unable to arrive by the beginning of yesterday's session. This was followed by Mr. Becker working with both students on their audition performance. Larry Zalkind, Mike Becker and myself then rehearsed several of the orchestral excerpts that we were going to perform at Mr. Zalkind's masterclass the next day. It was so nice to play with Larry and Mike! Things pretty much locked in right away and we did not have to discuss very much.

It looks like I will be unable to post articles about the Low Brass Boot Camp on a daily basis like I had originally planned. We have a very busy schedule with the Elgin Symphony this week...four performances of Nielsen's Fourth Symphony this weekend! I will attempt to have articles on each day of the Low Brass Boot Camp up by the end of next week.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Low Brass Boot Camp - Day One

I just got back to Chicago yesterday from a very successful week at Michael Becker's Low Brass Boot Camp.  This is the fifth year in a row that Mike has held this very unique seminar in Tucson, Arizona.  I was honored to be Mike's assistant again this year and work with a very strong group of trombonists and tubists!

The first day started with an introduction by Mr. Becker.  He discussed the ideas and goals behind the Boot Camp.  Primarily, he wants to assist the student with the skills that they will need to be successful in an orchestral audition environment.  The week will also focus on specific aspects of playing a low brass instrument and working on attaining more relaxed and efficient breathing.  

After this we had our first mock audition of the week.   Mike and I went behind a screen while the students came in individually. The audition consisted of one round with each person performing four or five standard excerpts chosen by Mike and myself.

After everyone had a chance to audition, Mike had a masterclass going over each students performance. The students came up individually to work with Mike. He also got into a brief discussion of The Breathing Book by David Vining.  David Vining is the trombone professor at Northern Arizona University.  Mr. Vining has recovered from embouchre dystonia and has done extensive research into the mechanics of breathing and sound production.  For more on David Vining, I highly recommend picking up a copy of his book and visiting his website.  

Next, I worked with the bass trombones and tubas on performing as a team. Using one bass trombonist and one tubist pairing, I had everyone do a Bordogni vocalise in octaves and unison. We then tried to apply these same concepts while playing Respighi's Fountains of Rome.

Mike ended the day with full section playing.  Going over several works, we basically had everyone “tag-team” in and out of the group.  By that point, I think we were all pretty wiped out and ready for some dinner!  

This years participants included:

Tenor Trombone - Joshua Bledsoe, Chris Green and Patrick Lawrence

Bass Trombone - Evan Conroy, Travis Cook, Matt Lane and Brian O'Donnel

Tuba – Kevin Bock and Dan Brown 

This post is the first part of a six-part series.  I plan on having an article covering the events of each day of the Low Brass Boot Camp.  Please check back tomorrow for more!

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