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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